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Context: New State government in Karnataka expressed Concern over the Mekedatu Dam Dispute. The government announced an Intention to resolve the dispute.


  • The Mekedatu dam project is a proposed multi-purpose balancing reservoir on the Cauvery River, near the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • The project aims to provide drinking water to Bengaluru and Ramanagara districts, as well as generate hydroelectric power for Karnataka.
  • However, the project has been opposed by Tamil Nadu, which claims that it will affect its share of water from the Cauvery River and violate the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) and the Supreme Court.

Cauvery River Dispute

  • The Cauvery River is an inter-state river that originates in Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry before joining the Bay of Bengal.
  • The river has been a source of conflict between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for decades, as both states depend on it for irrigation, drinking water and power generation.

Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT)

  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was set up in 1990 to adjudicate the dispute and allocate water among the four states.
    • In 2007, the CWDT gave its final order, which was challenged by all states in the Supreme Court.
    • In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the CWDT order with some modifications and directed the central government to set up a Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to implement the order.

Mekedatu dam project

  • The Mekedatu dam project was first proposed by Karnataka in 2013, with an estimated cost of Rs 5,912 crore and a capacity of 66 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet).
  • Karnataka claimed that the project would not affect Tamil Nadu's water entitlement, as it would only store excess water after releasing it to Tamil Nadu as per the CWDT order. Karnataka also argued that the project would help regulate the water flow and prevent the wastage of water into the sea.
    • However, Tamil Nadu objected to the project, alleging that it would reduce the natural flow of the river and deprive its farmers of irrigation water.
    • Tamil Nadu also contended that Karnataka cannot construct any new project on the Cauvery River without its consent and clearance from the CWMA

Dispute over the Mekedatu Dam project

  • The dispute over the Mekedatu dam project has escalated in recent years, with both states approaching the central government and the courts for their respective interests.
  • In 2018, Karnataka sought permission from the central government to conduct a feasibility study for the project, which was granted by the Central Water Commission (CWC). Tamil Nadu challenged this decision in the Supreme Court, which stayed the feasibility study until further orders.
  • In 2020, Karnataka submitted a detailed project report (DPR) to the CWC for approval, which was opposed by Tamil Nadu in a letter to the Prime Minister.
  • In 2021, Karnataka announced its intention to start work on the project soon, which triggered protests by political parties and farmers' associations in Tamil Nadu.

Way forward

  • The Mekedatu Dam dispute is a complex and sensitive issue that involves legal, technical and political aspects. The dispute reflects the competing demands and interests of two states over a shared natural resource that is vital for their development and livelihoods.
  • The dispute also poses a challenge to cooperative federalism and inter-state relations in India. The resolution of this dispute requires dialogue, negotiation and compromise among all stakeholders, based on scientific data, legal principles and equitable distribution of water.

Must Read Articles:

Mekedatu Reservoir Project & Inter-State Water Dispute: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/mekedatu-reservoir-project-inter-state-water-dispute

Inter-state river water dispute: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/inter-state-river-water-dispute

Statewise list of rivers in India: https://www.iasgyan.in/blogs/statewise-list-of-rivers-in-india


Q. How can India resolve its inter-state water disputes, which arise due to disagreements over the use, distribution, and control of inter-state river basin waters? What are the main challenges and opportunities for cooperative water governance in India?