CHENNAI: One more inter-state water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka assumed centre stage on Saturday with political parties protesting a new dam across the Markandeya river, a tributary of the Thenpennai river, which would affect irrigation and drinking water requirements of six districts in Tamil Nadu. However, Tamil Nadu Water Resources Minister Durai Murugan said the dispute would be resolved through a tribunal.
Referring to reports that Karnataka has completed the construction of a dam at Yarkol village across the Markandeya river, Durai Murugan said that the state government would urge the Union government to constitute an inter-state water disputes tribunal expeditiously to resolve the dispute over the construction of a dam, despite opposition from Tamil Nadu from the very beginning.
"The Tamil Nadu government, in its communication dated June 29 to the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, reiterated its demand for early constitution of the tribunal. The new dam built by Karnataka will affect irrigation in 870 hectares of lands in Krishnagiri district. This issue will be resolved through the tribunal," the minister said in a statement here.
Durai Murugan further said the state government would take appropriate steps to safeguard the rights of farmers and the public who depend on water from the Markandeya river which originates in Karnataka and flows into the Pennaiyar river in Tamil Nadu.
When engineers of the Central Water Commission inspected work on the new dam in 2017, Karnataka said the dam with 0.5 tmcft storage capacity was being constructed to fulfil the drinking water requirements of people in the area and to fortify the groundwater.
In 2019, Karnataka announced that the construction of this dam was almost over. Tamil Nadu has been consistently opposing the Karnataka government in this regard and a petition was filed before the Supreme Court on May 18, 2018. Later, on an interim petition, the Supreme Court directed that a tribunal should be constituted to resolve this issue.
In 2019, the Tamil Nadu government urged the Union government to constitute the tribunal at the earliest. As per the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, the Union government should constitute a tribunal within a year from the date of request. But the tribunal is yet to become a reality.
Farmers' associations have been opposing a new dam across the Markandeya river by Karnataka since it will affect the irrigation and drinking water requirements of six districts -- Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Kallakurichi, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Cuddalore.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko charged that Tamil Nadu lost its rights due to the lethargic attitude of the previous AIADMK regime. The SC had dismissed the petition of Tamil Nadu against Karnataka constructing a dam across the Markandeya river, he said and asked why the state failed to immediately make a request for forming an inter-state water dispute tribunal to resolve the issue. In a belated move, the government headed by Edappadi K Palaniswami requested the Union government to form the tribunal, he said.
A committee comprising representatives from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry was formed to hold talks on the issue. This committee submitted its report to the Union government on July 31, 2020 recommending the formation of a tribunal.
"The Union government headed by Narendra Modi has let the issue drag on without taking any decision for one full year thus betraying Tamil Nadu. The Union government which diluted the final verdict of the tribunal in the Cauvery water dispute has now betrayed Tamil Nadu again in the Thenpennai river issue. I urge the present government to check the storing of Thenpennai river water at the new dam across the Markandeya river," he added.
CPI state secretary R Mutharasan said, "On such occasions, the Union government should take an impartial stand and resolve the issue. But the present BJP-led government is siding with Karnataka betraying Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government should initiate a legal battle against the illegal activities of the Karnataka government."
Condemning the Karnataka government for completing the construction of a dam across Markandeya river, PMK youth wing president Anbumani Ramadoss blamed the Union government for delaying the formation of a tribunal to resolve the issue. "Now, only if the new dam across Markandeya river reaches its full capacity can the overflowing water reach Thenpennai river in Tamil Nadu. Since there is no chance for that, lakhs of acres in six districts will be affected and drinking water requirements cannot be fulfilled," he added.
He said the state government should take up the issue with the Union government as this dam has been constructed without the consent of the Tamil Nadu government.