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Tamil Nadu files plea in SC seeking direction to restrain Karnataka from constructing reservoir on Cauvery river

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The state of Tamil Nadu has filed an application in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to restrain the State of Karnataka through its instrumentality viz Cauvery Neervari Nigama Ltd, from proceeding with any activity in regard to the proposed construction of reservoir at Mekedatu across the Inter-State river Cauvery.

It is stated that the planning of Mekadatu project by the State of Karnataka with a capacity of 67.16 TMC ft and generation of 400 MW power at a cost of about Rs 9000 crore is in gross violation with the decision of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (Tribunal) dated February 5, 2007 as affirmed by the Top Court in its judgment dated February 16, 2018 reported in 2018. Pursuant to the judgment, the Top Court by a detailed Order dated 18.05.2018 directed the Central Government to frame a scheme providing for a Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) and notify in the official gazette so as to give effect to the Final Order of the Tribunal . The Central Government issued a Notification dated 01.06.2018 providing for establishment of Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC).

It is further stated that the entire object and intendment of the final decision of the Tribunal as modified by this Top Court is to ensure that the pattern of the release of water to the downstream State to meet the irrigation interests are not jeopardized.

“The State of Karnataka unilaterally and contrary to the Judgment of this Hon’ble Court, sent a Feasibility Report of the Mekedatu project to the Central Water Commission (CWC). The CWC which is the implementing agency, is bound to honour the Judgment , but instead proceeded to entertain the proposal. The proposed reservoir would result in impounding the flows generated in River Cauvery from the uncontrolled catchment of Kabini sub-basin downstream of Kabini reservoir, the catchment of Cauvery river downstream of KRS dam, uncontrolled flows from Shimsha, Arkavathy and Suvarnavathy sub-basins and various other small streams, which are the sources to ensure 177.25 TMC at Billigundlu, vide (2018) 4 SCC 1, para 319, pages 164 & 165. The proposed construction by Karnataka would have a cascading effect on the daily and monthly inflows during the crucial months of June to September as stipulated in the Final Order of the Tribunal as affirmed by the Supreme Court resulting in prejudicing the livelihood of lakhs of inhabitants of Tamil Nadu depending on the flows from the upstream in Karnataka. Further, any new scheme contemplated should be taken up only with the consent of the other basin States as they are vitally affected by the unilateral action of the upper riparian State”, alleged the Government of Tamil Nadu.

The Applicant State has filed an application for urgent orders being M.A. No. 3127 of 2018 on 30.11.2018 before the Supreme Court seeking stay o0n the operation of the permission given by the Central Water Commission on 22.11.2018 to Karnataka Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Ltd., Bangalore, an instrumentality of State of Karnataka to go ahead with preparation of Detailed Project Report for Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir cum Drinking Water project.

It is argued in the application that the proposed project would affect the flow of the river Cauvery considerably and will severely affect the irrigation in the Cauvery basin of Tamil Nadu. However, in spite of a series of correspondence with the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the State of Karnataka and the Prime Minister, the Government of India has not issued any instructions / directions to Karnataka and its instrumentality not to proceed with the project, which is not contemplated in the final decision of the Tribunal.

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“The proposed reservoir is not a designated storage reservoir from where the releases are to be made by Karnataka in terms of the final decision of the Tribunal as affirmed by this Hon’ble Court. It is thus a clear violation of judgment of this Hon’ble Court. The attempt of Karnataka through its instrumentality amounts to reopening the adjudication rendered by this Hon’ble Court affirming the decision of the Tribunal, which is wholly impermissible”,

the TN government submitted.

It is averred that Karnataka has increased the minor irrigation area as reported by it to the Cauvery Water Management Authority in the water year 2020-2021. The extent of permitted area under Minor Irrigation below KRS is only 1,53,120 acres, whereas the extent below KRS is shown as 2,15,319 acres. The total extent of Minor Irrigation permitted by the Tribunal, vide its Final Order dated 05.07.2007, Vol. V @ page 94 and the Judgment of this Hon’ble Court is 3,30,000 acres, whereas the total extent of area under minor irrigation as given in the statement furnished by Karnataka is 3,76,932 acres.

The Tamil Nadu government came to know from the proceedings before the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India that the State of Karnataka and its instrumentalities are taking steps for clearance from Environment authorities. In the minutes of the meeting of the EAC held on 19.07.2019 the issue of grant of Terms of Reference [ToR] was deliberated and the Committee opined that in view of the objections raised by Tamil Nadu government , amicable solutions be arrived between the two States and then put up for reconsideration for grant of ToR, said the plea.

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The Application State has set out its objections in various letters to the Ministry of Jal Shakti and CWC for the proposition that there is no justification to the proposed huge storage of 67.16 TMC ft. at Mekedatu Reservoir just above the Inter State Border. Further, the Tribunal while analyzing the storage capacity in the Cauvery Basin has found that there is a total gross storage capacity of 330 TMC ft. which is about 42% of the total yield of 740 TMC ft. and concluded that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin is adequate for storing and distributing water to the lower riparian States as per the monthly schedule prescribed by it. Thus, there is no need for any new storage structure for release of water by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu , claimed the TN government.

“The proposed project involves a total of 5252.40 ha, out of which 4996 ha is under submergence (3181.9 ha of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, 1869.5 ha of Reserve Forest and 201 ha of Revenue land) and remaining 256.40 ha is required for other construction activities. Thus, the project is located in a Wild Life Sanctuary and a Reserve Forest. The contemplation of the project is also in utter disregard to the final adjudication rendered by the Tribunal as modified by this Hon’ble Court and amounts to nullifying the adjudication rendered by this Hon’ble Court, resulting 17 in the impounding of flows from the uncontrolled catchment, which has to flow down to Tamil Nadu as per the directions contained in the final order passed by this Hon’ble Court”,

the application reads.

The State of Tamil Nadu further sought relief for directing the Central Water Commission to reject and return the Detailed Project Report for the proposed Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir cum cum Drinking Water Project filed by State of Karnataka, vide its letter dated January 18, 2019 and restraining the Ministry of Environment & Forest and its agencies from entertaining any application for clearance relating to Mekedatu Project, pending disposal of M.A. No. 3127 of 2018 .

The Application is drawn by Advocate G. Umapathy and vetted by R. Shanmugasundaram , Advocate General of Tamil Nadu .

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