February 20, 2019:
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court granted 3 week’s time to states of Tamil Nadu & Karnataka to file their reply to the Union Government’s stand that it had given only conditional clearance for preparing a detailed project report on Mekedatu balancing reservoir-cum-drinking water project.
A bench presided over by Justice A M Khanwilkar also allowed the state of Kerala and Union Territory Puducherry to furnish their response within three weeks.
In a reply to Tamil Nadu’s application, the Centre has earlier told the Court that in principle clearance for preparing a detailed project report on Mekedatu project to Karnataka was granted subject to resolution of the inter-state matters amicably.
“It does in no way conveys clearance by the Central Government or the Central Water Commission for construction of the project,” the Ministry of Water Resources had said in an affidavit.
The Centre claimed that the contention made by Tamil Nadu that it was not consulted was not true saying the feasibility report was shared on Aug 24, last. It had reiterated that the in-principle clearance of the detailed project report was subject to Karnataka resolving the inter-state matters amicably.
The Mekedatu project, intended to meet drinking water needs, is proposed to be built across the Cauvery river with a gross storage of 67. 16 TMC and live storage of 66.85 TMC with installed capacity of 400 MW at an estimated cost of Rs 5,912 crore.
The detailed project report had already been submitted.
Tamil Nadu filed a petition before the Top Court, claiming the Mekedatu project in its present form violated the decisions of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal of 2007 and apex court of 2018 for equitable apportionment of the river water. It was aggrieved with the order issued on Nov 22, 2018 by the Director, Project Appraisal (South), Central Water Commission with regard to “unauthorized” the Mekedatu project.
The Centre had also maintained the in-principle clearance to the detailed project report was granted in terms of the ‘guidelines of submission, appraisal and acceptance of irrigation and multi-purpose project-2017’.
Besides, the Union Government said the acceptance of Cauvery Water Management Authority would be “pre-requisite” for consideration of the detailed project report for techno-economic approval by the advisory committee of the ministry.
Maintaining the Central Water Commission upheld all institutions of importance with great respect, the Union Government said, “It is fully conscious of the interests of farmers of Cauvery delta and it will not permit any action to be taken against the interest of these farmers.”
In fact, the conditional clearance to Karnataka was based on the premise the balancing reservoir would help the state in fulfilling its obligation to Tamil Nadu for the mandated release of Cauvery water, it had said.
The Karnataka Government, for its part, had earlier told the court that Tamil Nadu had filed a plea with a mala fide intention to prevent it from preparing a detailed project report. It described the grievances made by Tamil Nadu as “false, frivolous and vexatious” and an attempt to seek a “re-hearing” of the case.