Karnataka ire at TN's drinking water project at Hogenakkal

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Mysore, Mar 9 (UNI) The move by the Tamil Nadu government for a drinking water project, drawing water from the Hogenakkal falls has brought the hoary Cauvery waters dispute with Karnataka to centre stage again.

The issue has come to high peak now, following move by the Tamil Nadu government to supply drinking water to Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts by drawing water from Hogenakkal falls by constructing a reservoir near Chamarajanagara district, which is of the most backward district in the state of Karnataka.

Pro-Kannada organisations, Chamarajanagara Zilla Horata Samithi and Hogenakkal Jalapatra Ulisi Samithi, are up in arms against the move of the Tamil Nadu government. Leaders of various political parties want the Karnataka government to impress upon the Centre to intervene, and appeal to the Supreme Court to ask the Tamil Nadu government to stop the proposed work.

The Hogenkkal consists of a series of falls, also known as the Niagra of India. The whole spectacle was spread over a kilometer or so, here the Cauvery enters the plains and the river dashing against the rocks was a great sight. The river here flows through a wooded valley, splitting and merging around rocks and little islands with towering trees. People cross the current rippled waters in coracles.

It was a picturesque location for the megaphone holders to shoot their films.

While both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are keen on exploiting the tourism potential of the falls, it was Tamil Nadu which had capatalised on it the most. Tamil Nadu developed the northern part of the falls, which comes under its list, by providing facilities including comfortable jungle lodges, massage parlours and boating facility.

The Southern part which belongs to Karnataka could not be developed all these years because of the forest brigand Veerappan menace, which haunted the state for nearly two and a half decades.

Sources at forest department told UNI that, it was the 400 acre Island in the river which created the rift between two states. The age-old disagreement over making the boundary line came to the fore when the Tamil Nadu government announced its plan to beautify the area around Hogenkkal falls at a cost of Rs 1.50 crore in 2005.

It also asserted that the land comes under the limits of Dharmapuri district.

Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu tourism authorities started work on building bathing ghats, safety towers, illumination of the entire falls area and construction of dormitories and rest rooms. But they were stopped by the forest authorities of Karnataka government.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister N Dharam Singh, who took objection to the plan of Tamil Nadu decided to refer the issue to the Centre for settlement. Former Deputy Chief Minister M P Prakash asserted that Hogenkkal falls belonged to the state legally and morally and alleged that the neighbouring state's claim to it was politically motivated. Since 1956, after the formation of the states on linguistic basis, the island remained under the control of Karnataka, which has been maintaining it, he claimed.

The plan of the Tamil Nadu government to construct a reservoir to draw water has caused anxiety among the people in border areas of Karnataka, especially in Chamarajanagara district. The decision of Tamil Nadu government to lay the foundation stone for the project on February 26 had further angered the Chamarajanagara zilla Abhivrudhi Horta Samithi and Hogenakkal Ulisi Horta Samithi. They have urged the government to stop Tamil Nadu from taking up the project till the controversy was settled. Every day the protests and dharnas continue in the entire Chamarajanagara district on this issue.

Amid protests from pro-Kannada organisations, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi laid the foundation stone for the Rs 1340 crores drinking water project in Dharmpuri on February 26. The project was financed by Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

According to him, the project has been envisaged to ensure supply of safe drinking water to about 30 lakh people in 6755 habitations in three municipalities in 17 town panchayats and 19 panchayat unions in fluoride affected Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

The pro-Kannada organisations are protesting against both 'apathy' of the Karnataka government in safeguarding land and water belonging to it and the audacity of the Tamil Nadu government in taking up the project.They contend that the Karnataka government should seek the immediate intervention of the President, work should be suspended until the completion of the joint survey by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments and till the Supreme Court delivers its verdict with regard to sharing of water in accordance with the order of the tribunal'.

The sources said the much awaited joint survey by the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments to put an end to the controversy over the control of an island near the Hogenkkal falls is expected to commence by next week. Both the states are staking claim over the 400 acres of land.

UNI BSP RP RK1450

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