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Bengaluru Eyes Sharavathi Water to Meet Ever-Increasing Demand, Environmentalists Cry Foul

Sharavathi flows through only two districts before joining the Arabian Sea. Its total length is just 128km but it carries enormous quantity of water during the monsoon and generates 25% of the state’s total power production.

D P Satish | News18.comdp_satish

Updated:June 19, 2018, 3:03 PM IST
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Bengaluru Eyes Sharavathi Water to Meet Ever-Increasing Demand, Environmentalists Cry Foul
The Sharavathi River is 400km away from the state capital.
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BENGALURU: Recent studies conducted by the state government and world environment bodies have warned that India’s IT and Start-up capital may face severe water crisis in less than 10 years.

Alarmed by the reports, the state government is now eyeing water from Sharavathi River, which is 400km away from the state capital.

According to the Bengaluru master plan, the total population of the city is expected to cross 21 million by 2031 and the mega polis will face acute shortage of water. Currently, 2/3 of the need is met by Cauvery river and the rest from groundwater.

Since there is a cap on using Cauvery water for Bengaluru and the changing rain pattern in the Cauvery district of Kodagu, the government is looking beyond Cauvery and looking at rivers in the central part of the Western Ghats.

The government is now eyeing the Sharavathi River in Shimoga district. Sharavathi flows through only two districts — Shimoga and Uttara Kannada — before joining the Arabian Sea. Its total length is just 128km but it carries enormous quantity of water during the monsoon and generates 25% of the state’s total power production. The total area of Sharavathi basin is almost 3,000 sq kms in Shimoga district.

The first dam Hirebhaskara or Madenuru was built across Sharavathi in 1948 and a bigger dam to generate more power, Linganamakki, was built in 1965.

After the Linganamakki dam was completed, Jog Falls — the fifth highest waterfalls in the world — lost much of their beauty because the dam prevented the free flow of water in the downstream of the river. Its majestic beauty reappears only during the monsoon these days.

The Thyagaraja committee had recommended to the state government to get Sharavathi water to Bengaluru in 2014 and the current JDS-Congress government is studying the feasibility of such a plan.

According to deputy chief minister G Parameshwara, who also holds the Bengaluru Development portfolio, the state government is preparing a detailed project report and will take a call only after that. Speaking to News18, he said getting Sharavathi water to Bengaluru was technically possible. He also said Nethravathi or Ettina Hole water, which is expected to quench the thirst of parched Chikkaballapura and Kolar districts, could also be used for Bengaluru.

Since Ettina Hole can spare just 2 tmc feet for the city, getting Sharavathi water to Bengaluru is a necessity, he claims.

But the government’s proposal is facing a lot of opposition from the people who live on the banks of Sharavathi as well as environmentalists.

They argue that the cost of pumping Sharavathi water to Bengaluru would be too steep and the city must rejuvenate over 600 small and big lakes in and around Bengaluru to meet its ever-growing water needs.

The total capacity of Linganamakki dam is 151 tmc feet and the reservoir has not reached its maximum storage capacity since 2014.

“The available water is not enough even for power generation. If they divert 30 tmc feet to Bengaluru, the power generation will be hit. It is the cheapest source of power in Karnataka. The dam was a part of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s grand industrialisation policy. It has fulfilled his dream by making Karnataka a highly industrialised state in India. The power from Sharavathi has made Bengaluru what it is today. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited or the KPCL is not in favour of this water to Bengaluru proposal,” said a senior official at the KPCL.

All turbines at the Sharavathi project currently generate over 1,600 Mega Watt power, which is expected to reach 2,000 MW.

Since the Linganamakki dam was built only for hydel power generation, the water in the reservoir should not be used for any other purpose, argue locals.

The retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), AN Yellappa Reddy, said getting Sharavathi water to Bengaluru was not a good idea.

Speaking to News18, he said, “We have already exploited the Western Ghats to the fullest. They can’t be exploited further for the development of Bengaluru. To meet its water demands, Bengaluru must recharge groundwater and rejuvenate over 600 small and big lakes in and around the city. The Sharavathi project may take 15-20 years to complete and is not viable both economically and financially. We are against it”.

Some even allege that the big contractors’ lobby is behind the proposal. However, Parameshwara said the project was at the conceptualisation stage and all aspects would be taken into serious consideration before going ahead with it.

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