The Cauvery river water issue, which
is a bone of contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also
entangles Kerala and Puducherry, is now caught up in a new row.
This time within Karnataka itself, where the river majestically
flows and on which as many as 62 Mini Hydel Projects are
commissioned by the state government, having adverse impact on the
water supply, hydrology, ecology and environment.
According to media reports, “following the drastic fall in the
water-level in the Shiva Balancing Reservoir (SBR), the Bangalore
Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has asked Karnataka Power
Transmission Corporation Ltd. (KPTCL) and Karnataka Power
Corporation Ltd. (KPCL) to stop power generation from four
mini-hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery basin, at least till
The projects that were asked to stop generation include:
Madhavamantri, Satyagala, Shiva Anecut and Shimsha
However, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People SANDRP is
dismayed about the latest move. Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP
inquires about the status of 58 other mini-hydroelectric projects
on Cauvery River that are causing immense environmental damage.
The Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) has
commissioned a whopping 62 mini hydel projects on the Cauvery,
most of them downstream KrishnarajSagar Dam.
“Some of these projects are
downstream from the Shiva Anicut from where water supply to
Bangalore is routed. In addition to decrease in water
availability, water stored by several mini hydel projects
increases the evapo- transpiration rate of water, particularly in
summer,” says Parineeta.
“These projects also hold back water, critically affecting water
supply cycles to Bangalore and other towns and villages dependent
on the river. Similar conditions had occurred in Mangalore, last
year, where water levels in the Thumbe Dam fell to alarming levels
due to mini hydel projects hoarding up water in the upstream” she
“If at all the state government, Bangalore Water Supply and
Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and others are concerned about impact of
water supply due to mini hydel projects on Cauvery, they need to
consider the impact of these projects on the water supply, ecology
and livelihoods in the downstream areas. There is an urgent need
to consider halting power generation of these projects during this
summer when the Cauvery basin is facing dire water crisis” she
Cauvery River is popularly known as Jeevanadhi in Karnataka which
in Kannada, language means a river supporting life. Its origin is
traditionally placed at Talakaveri, Kodagu in the Western Ghats in
The river flows south and east through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
and across the southern Deccan plateau through the southeastern
lowlands, emptying into the Bay of Bengal through two principal
The Cauvery basin is estimated to be 81,155 km with many
tributaries. The river's basin covers 4 states and Union
Territories - Karnataka (34,273 km), Tamil Nadu (43,856 km),
Kerala (2,866 km) and Puducherry (160 km).
Rising in southwestern Karnataka, the river flows southeast some
800 km to enter the Bay of Bengal. After the river leaves the
Kodagu hills and flows onto the Deccan plateau, it forms two
islands, Srirangapatna and Shivanasamudra. Three kilometers away
from Srirangapatna, the Cauvery is the basis for the Ranganthittu
In east of Mysore is the island Shivanasamudra, on either side of
which are the scenic Shivanasamudra Falls that descend about 320
ft (100 m). Asia's first hydroelectric plant was built in 1902 on
the left falls and supplied power to the city of Bangalore.
Cauvery River is the source for an extensive irrigation system and
for hydroelectric power. In its course through Karnataka, the
channel is interrupted by twelve "anicuts" (dams) for the purpose
of irrigation. In addition to providing many ancient and modern
canals with water from the river for irrigation purposes, the
Cauvery also serves as the main drinking water source for many
towns and villages. The cities of Bangalore, Mandya and Mysore
depend almost entirely on the Cauvery for their drinking water
Mini Hydel Projects which are below the capacity of 25 MW do not
need Environmental Clearance, Environment Impact Assessment or
public hearing. More than 60 Mini Hydel projects are planned or
commissioned on Cauvery River, one after the other, severely
affects the hydrology as well as ecology of a river system and
also people and their livelihoods in surrounding areas.
Many projects are right next to the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and
are causing impediment to movement of elephants, increasing
man-animal conflicts. This has been highlighted by the Karnataka
Elephant Task Force. Due to their cumulative impacts on ecology,
High Court of Karnataka has halted construction of any such
projects in Western Ghats, informs Parineeta of SANDRP.
SANDRP appeals for a cumulative impact assessment of mini hydel
project commissioned along the River Cauvery that is urgently
needed, keeping water supply, hydrology and ecology in view.
Cumulative impact assessment and Individual impact assessment of
unprecedented number of mini hydel projects is also required
urgently because of approaching summer and dire water situation in
the state, says Parineeta.
Earlier such appeals to Karnataka Renewable Energy Development
Limited (KREDL), Karnataka Forest Department and Karnataka
Wildlife Board had fallen on deaf ears, she says.
This time Parineeta hopes that the Karnataka government, BWSSB,
KPCL, KREDL, KPTCL, Cauvery Neeravari Nigam and all others
concerned will come together and conduct this assessment urgently
and cancel the projects which are having unacceptable impacts on
people, ecology, hydrology and water supply of Cauvery.
As Cauvery needs urgent attention, SANDRP along Nityata
Foundation, Bangalore and River Research Centre, Kerala has made
this appeal on the International Day of Action for Rivers.
Parineeta Dandekar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and
People (SANDRP) can be contacted at email@example.com
Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at