A section of activists and others have planned to hold a protest against the proposal to construct the Mekedatu reservoir-cum-drinking water project in Karnataka, adding to the complications of an already contentious issue.
Noted activist Medha Patkar is expected to be part of the protests, according to people aware of the developments.
Activists and environmentalists claim that the project, if taken up, will end up with over 12,000 acres of forests and other lands that will be submerged.
“All 3 KA mainstream political parties are pushing for (a) destructive dam in Mekedatu. We oppose dam, want to preserve #Mekedatu & demand eco-friendly water methods. On Jan 14, 2022, we rights groups are uniting to protest the project. Our inspiration Medha Patkar will lead us,” Kannada actor and activist Chetan Kumar said on Sunday in a post on Twitter.
“BJP/Congress/JDS want ₹9,000cr reservoir project that submerges 12,000 acres of forest in Mekedatu w/ Congress pushing for it via a padayatra. We oppose this environmentally-disastrous demand & all 3 opportunistic parties. We want dam project dropped immediately,” he added.
The post comes on the same day the Congress party in Karnataka began their 10-day Padayatra towards Bengaluru to pressure the Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to start work on the project.
“We can never create 12,000 acres of Forest. Who are we to destroy. Bengaluru has no right to keep swallowing all natural resources , villages around. Use the 9000 crore to develop other urban areas of Karnataka. Brain-dead politics to build big dams,” Vinay Srinivasa, lawyer and activist said in a post.
Mekedatu, which literally means Goat’s crossing in English, is situated around 100 kms from Bengaluru in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district.
The Mekedatu issue has evoked emotions on both sides of the border as it is an extension of the century-old Cauvery river water dispute that has defined generations in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, two of India’s most industrious and progressive states.
The long-winding legal battles have been used as a political currency in the past as well as an active tool to deflect attention away from other issues both sides of the border and irrespective of the party in power.
The Cauvery river basin originates in Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu and Puducherry before it enters the Bay of Bengal. Of the total catchment area of 81,155 square kilometers, 34,273 kilometers is in Karnataka, 44,016 square kms in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and about 2,866 sq kms in Kerala.
Karnataka has maintained that the Mekedatu balancing reservoir-cum-drinking water project is to generate 400 MW of power and additionally utilise 4.75 tmcft of water for drinking and domestic needs in the state and particularly Bengaluru.
The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, soon after it came to power in 2013, announced the construction of the project which would cost ₹5,912 crore (now in excess of ₹9,000 crore) to help use the excess water to quench the thirst of surrounding districts, including Bengaluru.