The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday demanded that the Centre withdraw the permission granted to Karnataka to prepare a Detailed Project Report for a proposal to construct a balancing reservoir-cum-drinking water project in Mekedatu area across the Cauvery river.

On Monday, the Central Water Commission approved a pre-feasibility report Karnataka had submitted on the proposed project, The News Minute reported. On Tuesday, it gave preliminary approval to the report and asked the HD Kumaraswamy-led government for a Detailed Project Report.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, claiming that the Central Water Commission granted permission to Karnataka for the project without considering the “genuine and justifiable objections” of Tamil Nadu, PTI reported. He said the project will “affect the lives of lakhs of farmers” and demanded that the permission be withdrawn.

In Bengaluru, Kumaraswamy’s response was that the project has already come into effect. “No need to panic, Mekedatu project has to come into effect,” he said. “The State government within the framework of it plans to implement the project by petitioning the central government... we will share with you in the days to come.”

Karnataka Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar said the state is very happy with the Centre’s decision. “We are very happy with the central government’s decision,” he told reporters. “But despite the Centre’s approval Tamil Nadu is opposing the project, which it should not. Kumaraswamy and I are ready to hold talks with our Tamil Nadu counterparts. They only have to agree.”

Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party chief BS Yeddyurappa praised the Centre’s decision, and added that the state government should now allocate funds for the project on a priority basis.

The project

The Rs 5,912-crore project is meant to reduce the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramanagara district, as well as generate electricity. It was first announced by former Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra in 2013, The News Minute reported.

However, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa approached the previous Manmohan Singh government at the Centre and asked it not to approve the project. Jayalalithaa had said that the absence of a body to implement the orders of the Cauvery water dispute tribunal made the project unfeasible for Tamil Nadu.

The government of former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah approved the commencement of the project in February 2017.

The Supreme Court, in February 2018, ordered the formation of the Cauvery Water Management Board to determine the allocation of Cauvery river water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. However, Palaniswami claimed that Karnataka’s decision to approach the Central Water Commission on the Mekedatu matter without the concurrence of Tamil Nadu was in violation of the top court’s verdict.