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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mekedatu spells trouble .... the biggest Yalong River project

Arkavati is a large mountain river in Karnataka, originating at Nandi Hills of Chikkaballapura district. It is a tributary of the Kaveri, which it joins at 34 km south of Kanakapura, called Sangama in Kannada, after flowing through ramanagara and Kanakapura.  Thanjavur (Tanjore) the royal city of Cholas, Nayaks and Marathaas was at the height of its glory during Rajaraja Chozha whose coronation took place exactly a thousand years ago.  Thanjavur was touted as ‘rice bowl’ of Tamil Nadu ~  வேழம் உடைத்து மழைநாடு மேதக்க  சோழ வளநாடு சோறுடைத்து – the proverb [Chola vala nadu sorudaithu] would mean  - the fertile land of Chola was rich in food. 

The place sadly has lost its glory and is mired in trouble.  There have been protests by farmers of the place with MDMK general secretary Vaiko leading a group of cadres owing allegiance to various political affiliations staging a rail roko in support of farmers’ protest against Karnataka constructing reservoirs across the Cauvery. A strong police posse prevented Mr. Vaiko and surging protesters from entering the junction premises by erecting barricades. The protesters’ plan was to picket the Tiruchi-Chennai Egmore Cholan Express but police thwarted them and the train quietly left the junction unhindered.

Meantime, the Tamil Nadu government has approached the Supreme Court after Karnataka Water Resources Minister's reported speech that the state was planning to implement Mekedatu project by constructing two dams across the Cauvery for which it need not get Tamil Nadu's consent.

Mekedatu  is a location along Kaveri in Kanakapura Taluk. Sangama is the place where Arkavati merges with Kaveri. From this point, about 3.5 kilometers downstream, the river Kaveri flows through a deep gorge so narrow that one would think that a goat can leap across it ('Mekedatu' means 'goat's leap' in Kannada). It is not really so narrow  but is connected to a hearsay story of a  goat being chased by a tiger making a desperate attempt to save its life by leaping from one side of the gorge and managed to cross over the raging river below. 

Responding to DMK president M Karunanidhi’s demand for convening an Assembly session over the Mullaperiyar dam and Mekedatu issues, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said the state is filing a case in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stall dam construction by Karnataka. There was no need to pass a resolution in the state Assembly to increase the height of Mullaperiyar dam to store water in the light of Supreme Court upholding Tamil Nadu's rights on water level, he said.  Karnataka feels that they do not need permission for executing something within their State.

Miles away in China, in a place called Sichuan - China's Yalong River Hydropower Development Company is constructing the 305-meter-high Jinping-1 Dam. Slated for completion in early 2015, it will dwarf even the landmark Three Gorges Dam. Over 1,500 kilometers long, the Yalong River flows from the Tibetan Plateau to southern China, its middle and lower reaches meandering through the narrow valleys of Sichuan province before joining the mighty Yangtze River. It is there in Sichuan that the dam is coming up.   With a 3,600 megawatt capacity, the Jinping-1 Dam costs approximately 54 billion yuan ($8 billion). Set to profit from the project are not only its owners, but also the German companies, including Siemens and Herrenknecht, that have supplied technical know-how every step of the way from the initial excavations to the power conversion process. The dam also serves as a flagship project for Beijing, which is keen to boost alternative energy production.

Away from the site,  a growing population and increased affluence is resulting in increased demand for clean drinking water. But with China building dams, less water is crossing the borders to Southeast Asia. This jeopardizes the water supply in these countries to such an extent that a small country such as Myanmar, heavily dependent on Chinese investment, had to suspend its own Myitsone Dam project, risking a cooling in its ties to China.

Water ….. and construction of dams spells trouble for many at places !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23.11.14 Photo and news of Sierens credit : ww.dw.de

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