The Karnataka unit of Congress party has decided to undertake a padayatra (foot march) from Mekedatu to Bengaluru in the first week of December, demanding the immediate implementation of the project. The contentious ₹9,000 crore project involves building a balancing reservoir to augment drinking water supplies to Ramanagara and Bengaluru districts and is being opposed by neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which fears that it would reduce the amount of Cauvery river water available to it.

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President D K Shivakumar on Sunday said that the padayatra was meant to apply pressure on the Basavaraj Bommai-ledBJP government in the State to implement the project immediately. “During the Congress government tenure, we had sent our plan of action to the Centre and it had been accepted. The BJP keeps talking of double engine government at the State and Centre. All that is required is environment clearance and there are no other legal hurdles. We want to create awareness about the need for the project and thus the padayatra.”

If the project is implemented it will provide 4.75 tmc of drinking water to Karnataka’s southern districts as well as generate 400 MW of power. However, Tamil Nadu fears that construction of a balancing reservoir would hinder the flow of Cauvery water. TN Chief Minister M K Stalin has repeatedly opposed the Mekedatu project which is proposed to be built just four kilometres from the State border. Tamil Nadu has said that since in most years that Karnataka is not able to release its share of Cauvery water as decided by a tribunal, any additional dam would only have a negative impact on the water flow into the State. Interestingly Congress is an ally of the DMK and a part of the ruling coalition in Tamil Nadu.

On Thursday, CM Basavaraj Bommai had asserted that Karnataka would go ahead with the implementation of the project and had said that the State would take all necessary legal measures to ensure that its interests would be protected. KPCC Chief Shivakumar said that all senior Congress leaders would participate in the 100 km long padayatra and the exact date for its commencement would be announced shortly.