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NGT sets up panel on Mekedatu dam construction violation


PTI, May 25, 2021, 12:46 PM IST

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has formed a committee to submit a report on alleged violation of norms in the construction of a reservoir across the Kaveri river at Mekedatu in Karnataka.

A bench comprising Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member K Satyagopal issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Department of Water Resources, Central Water Commission, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments among others.

The direction came after taking suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a newspaper report that Karnataka proposes to construct a dam across the Kaveri river in the area and that the proposal was deferred by the Kaveri Water Management Authority twice in the past following strong opposition from the Tamil Nadu government citing the pendency of the case before the Supreme Court.

“Considering the allegations made in the newspaper report, we are satisfied that there arises a substantial question of environment, which requires the interference of this Tribunal. So, the matter is admitted. Issue notice to the respondents…along with a copy of the newspaper report and gist of the Suo Motu proceeding with full cause title so as to enable them to comply with the direction,” the bench said.

The committee comprises senior members from the Integrated Regional Office, MoEF, Bengaluru, Kaveri Water Management Authority, Kaveri Neeravari Nigam Limited and the Forest Department not below the rank of Additional Conservator of Forest, Karnataka.

The bench said: “The committee is also directed to go into the question as to whether any construction activity as alleged in the newspaper report has been started without obtaining necessary clearance from the Forest Department as well as from the MoEF under the Forest Conservation Act as well as the EIA Notification, 2006.

“If there is any construction made and if any damage has been caused to the environment, they are directed to assess the damage caused to the environment and environmental compensation payable by the respective authorities who are responsible for the same.”

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Department of Forests, Karnataka, will be the nodal agency for coordination and for providing necessary logistics for this purpose, the NGT said.

The newspaper report has alleged that the construction will have an impact on nearby reserve forests and sanctuaries as well.

It alleged that no sanction or necessary clearances have been obtained under the Forest Conservation Act and also under the EIA Notification, 2006 for this purpose.

The report contended that if the project is implemented, it may have some impact on the Kaveri Wildlife Sanctuary and nearby reserve forests, as a large extent of land namely, 5,252.40 hectare is likely to be affected as submergence area.

According to the draft Terms of Reference of the proposal (2019), the Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir and Drinking Water Project involves the construction of a balancing reservoir across Kaveri near Mekedatu in Karnataka.

While the project cost is estimated at Rs 9,000 crore, the proposal is aimed at providing drinking water facilities to the Bengaluru Metropolitan region and its surrounding areas (4.75 TMC) and generate 400 MW of power as an additional benefit.

Tamil Nadu had all along strongly opposed the project and approached the Supreme Court as well saying any dam proposal by upper riparian States in the Cauvery basin would deprive the State’s delta farmers of their rightful share of water.

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