‘The Hogenakal row is about land, not water’

The temporarily-suspended row between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Hogenakal drinking water project has been remarkable for the almost complete lack of nuance and expertise in the articulation of the dispute. The key players on both sides — politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, lawyers, journalists — have been happy to let a complex legal issue be thrashed out at an emotional level on the streets.

Aside from the existence of a decade-old No Objection Certificate, there has been little or no effort to dig deep and explain the genesis of the row; how it suddenly erupted at this point in time; what the legal position is; what could be the way out, etc. The intellectual darkness proved to be fertile ground for language chauvinists and film parochialists on both side to whip up passions.

One exception has been the former Karnataka irrigation minister and former member of Parliament, H.N. Nanje Gowda, who gave a long interview to S.R. Aradhya of Udaya TV (above) and followed it up with comments to N. Niranjan Nikam of Deccan Herald. Gowda may not be the last word on the subject, but still his effort to explicate the controversy, as is, in a superheated atmosphere is unexceptionable.

The main points Gowda makes are:

# The Hogenakal row is not about water, it is about land. If it is just about drinking water, then let me state categorically that there is no problem at all. After all, it is just 1.46 tmc ft of water that Tamil Nadu is seeking for Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. To draw this water, no dam is required to be built. All it requires is just a jackwell.

# There are four dimensions to Hogenakal. They are drinking water needs, irrigation needs, power project, and the holiday resort. As far as I can see, the real bone of contention is the resort. Both States claim that the 500-600 acre island, on which the Tamil Nadu tourism department is trying to build a resort, belongs to them.

# Hogenakal was part of Coimbatore district till 1956 when it was handed over to Karnataka. The Cauvery river forms the border between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for about 64 km. This is called the “common reach”. Hogenkal is at the 40th km. By international convention, if a river lies between two states or countries, then the centre point of the river forms the border. The island where TN wants to build a resort lies in the middle at Hogenakal but TN has not allowed a survey to be held to determine which State the island belongs to.

# The Union Government, way back in 1998, had proposed construction of four hydel projects, viz Shivanasamudram, Mekedatu, Rasimanal and Hogenakal. Karnataka agreed to the sharing of power generated by Rasimanal and Hogenakal which are situated in the common reach of the river Cauvery. However, Karnataka objected to the sharing of power generated by Shivanasamudram and Mekedatu projects on the ground that these projects fall entirely within the territory of Karnataka.

# We have to see is what the project report says. We also do not know whether they have submitted any project report to the Centre or not. Similarly I am not sure if the Karnataka government also has submitted any project report to Government of India or not…. If there is apprehension that Tamil Nadu in the guise of taking up drinking water project will construct a dam, which will result in submersion of the area, then we can approach the Centre at any time.

# The reasons for the current situation are the lack of transparency on the part of governor of Karnataka, Rameshwar Thakur, and the irresponsible, provocative and unwarranted statements of chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi. I wrote two letters to the governor urging him to have consultations with various parties on the irrigation projects but there has not even been an acknowledgement.

# If Karunanidhi is whipping up the Hogenakal issue ten years after the no-objection certificate was obtained, as a member of UPA, he probably has a hunch that the parliament will be dissolved, and maybe wants to hold assembly elections in Tamil Nadu simultaneously.

Videograb: courtesy Udaya TV

Link courtesy Rajeev Rao

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Who is right on Hogenakal?

How does a TV/cinema blackout help Hogenakal?

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