The Karnataka government on Friday registered its strong objection to neighbouring Tamil Nadu taking up an interlinking project, aimed at utilising surplus water from the inter-state Cauvery river, saying it would affect the state’s interests and would fight it legally. The decision was taken at a meeting by Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, Law and Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai with the state’s legal team on inter-state water dispute, the state Advocate General, technical team and other senior officials.
“Tamil Nadu has laid the foundation for Cauvery-Vaigai- Gundar link with an intention to utilise about 45 tmc of surplus water from Cauvery, it will affect Karnataka’s interest," Bommai told reporters here after the meeting. Surplus water has not been shared between the states officially or legally, so taking up the project in such a situation was not right and it was also not in accordance with the Interstate River Water Disputes Act, he said.
“According to the Interstate Water Disputes Act, surplus water should also be adjudicated and the tribunal has to decide on it, so this project that is being taken up against the law. Karnataka government opposes this project," he added. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami had on Sunday laid the foundation for the first phase of the Rs 14,400 crore Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar river interlinking project, aimed at diverting over 6,000 cubic ft of surplus water to drier areas in southern districts.
Accusing the lower riparian state of repeatedly raking up issues related to Cauvery river, Bommai said, like they started the Hogenakkal project without taking any permission, now they have launched the Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar link. “Surplus water should be shared between the states, this is the fundamental principle, whatever they are doing is against it, as they are indicating their claim over surplus water. Karnataka strongly opposes and condemns it and we have decided to fight it legally," he said.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has written to the Centre requesting it not to give clearance for the project. Bommai said Tamil Nadu had been opposing Karnataka’s projects in the Cauvery basin, including plans to modernise or repair 300-400 year old dams and irrigation projects that were in bad condition.
It had also objected when Karnataka sought allocation for a drinking water project to Bengaluru, he said. Yediyurappa has earlier said his government would not allow Tamil Nadu to use surplus water from Cauvery river and will take strong measures to protect the state’s interests.
The 262 km-long project envisages diverting surplus water in Cauvery to Gundar river through a canal and the first of the three phases will cover about 118 km, Tamil Nadu has said, adding Cauvery, South Vellar, Vaigai and Gundar rivers will be interlinked in this major intra-state water project. Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi said it was decided at the meeting to respond legally and politically to the Tamila Nadu’s river linking project.
The BJP government was committed to protecting the interest of Karnataka on other inter-state river water disputes like Mahadayi (with Goa) and Krishna (with Maharashtra) also, he added. Jarkiholi, who held a meeting with the state’s legal team on the inter-state water dispute in Delhi on Sunday, had also met Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in this regard.
Responding to questions, Bommai said there was no delay in taking necessary action regarding Tamil Nadu’s project and rejected opposition criticism that the BJP government was going soft keeping in mind coming assembly elections in the neighbouring state, where the party is in alliance with ruling AIADMK. “…elections or political developments in Tamil Nadu, we have nothing to do with it, interest of our state is important for us." Regarding Mahadayi issue, the Law Minister referred to the Supreme Court ordering a committee of riparian states to inspect the project worksite at Kanakumbi in Belagavi district to ascertain any diversion and said Karnataka was ready for the inspection as there was no chance of any diversion.
Asserting that Karnataka was going by the tribunal’s order on sharing of the river water, he accused Goa of misusing courts and legal procedures to delay Mayadayi’s Kalasa-Banduri project, and urged the Centre to give all clearance soon after the inspection.