Mangaluru: Finally, it was time for Bishop of Mangaluru, Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, along with Roman Catholic Diocese to awake and raise their voices against the proposed Yettinahole Project or The Netravati River Diversion Project, as it is also known, which is expected to supply water to the water-starved districts of Hassan, Bengaluru Rural and Chikkaballapur by diverting Netravati river water in Dakshina Kannada to these eastern districts. An interaction/discussions on this issue was organized at the Bishop’s House Hall on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 at 5pm.
The mega project, which is estimated to cost in crores, has faced several challenges from the day of conception till the date of issuing tenders and laying of the foundation stone. On completion, the project would divert more than 24 tmcft of water from Netravati to the above districts. The crowd at today’s session was predominantly mixed comprising of priests, nuns, lawyers, businessmen, seniors and youth, who all raised their voices saying that they were opposing the diversion project as Netravathi river was the “lifeline of Dakshina Kannada district” and because it did not considering the negative impact on the coastal region.
According to experts, the project, if implemented, would be environmentally disastrous. The catchment area of Netravati, which is a part of the Western Ghats, is recognised as one of the 25 hot spots for biodiversity conservation in the world. Apart from being the lifeline of the district, the Netravati has several tributaries that keep alive the hydro-system of the Western Ghats by feeding excess water into the streams, small rivers and rivulets.
The session began with a prayer, followed by welcome address by Fr Victor J Lobo- Director of Sandesha Prathistana-Bajjodi, and also the compere of the program. Fr JB Crasta-Moderator of today’s discussion briefed about the Yettinahole Project and its harmful effect on the people of DK. Bishop of Mangaluru, Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, and Fr Denis Moras-Vicar General were also present on the dais. The keynote speaker of the day, Prof. S.G. Mayya, Professor of water Resources Engineering (Retd), National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal, said that diverting Yettinahole was as good as diverting Netravati, as Yettinahole and Kumaradhara are Netravati’s major tributaries. Besides, many parts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi face severe water shortage for eight months in a year.
“Netravati being the lifeline of these districts, government must provide water to the downstream rather than planning to divert water as the situation in the coastal areas in the state is no better. The Netravati River Diversion Project envisages the formation of a series of canals at mid-elevation of the Western Ghats starting from Gadikal Gudda near Naravi, passing through Shirlal, Elaniru, Didipe and Charmady, and crossing NH-48 and the Southern Railway line near Shiradi Ghats and across the ridge line of Yettinahole. A second garland canal is proposed south of Shiradi from Surlabi Betta through Koikaslu Betta in Kumaradhara catchment. Yet another canal is also proposed for the catchment of Bhadra that joins the garland canal from the Netravati catchment near Samse” added Mayya..
“Above all, the project which also proposes to form 38 reservoirs across 38 streams in the Western Ghats would submerge about 77 sq. km of grassland and surroundings in the Kumaradhara catchment area and necessitate the rebuilding of damaged access roads and canals. According to the feasibility report, the entire river system of Karnataka yields 3,440 tmc. The west flowing rivers constitute a major portion of the yield—nearly 2,000 tmc annually (58 per cent). Though a major portion of water flows into the Arabian sea, it is neither technically viable nor financially feasible to divert water due to environment constraints and presence of Western Ghats barrier”.
“The project proposal comprises two stages—surplus waters of Yettinahole reservoir of Netravati basin would be lifted to 19.5m high and combined surplus waters of Kerihole and Hongadhalladhole reservoirs would be lifted to 61.31m high for diverting into Hemavati river of Cauvery basin. While the Yettinahole-Hemavati river conveyance system would be of 3.54 km long, including 3.04-km long tunnel, the Kerihole-Hongadhalladhole reservoir interlinking tunnel would be 3.98 km long and Hongadhalladhole-Hemavati river conveyance system would be of 3.3 km long with a tunnel of 1.375 km. This project is a costly project, which is simply a waste of tax payers money. It will also destroy vegetation and wildlife” said Prof. Mayya.
“Why the project is pushed in a hurry? Why Netravathi basin people are kept in the dark? Why transparency is not maintained? Is there any guarantee that drinking water demand of Kolar/Chikkaballapur people are addressed? Why over estimation of water availability? Are the policy makers properly advised? Why the riparian water right is ignored? Why the community involvement is not considered? Why can’t the ‘Professional Experts’ ignore this project which is sheer waste of tax-payers money? are some of the queries asked by Prof. Mayya during his interaction with the audience.
Mayya said, “Water rights are blatantly ignored like the riparian rights; prior appropriation rights; important to establish our right on the river water for the future generation. We need to fight for our water rights. There are some hidden agenda on this project-all future requirement of Bengaluru City water will be taken from Netravathi; Huge infrastructure justifies the doubt; Water will be lifted from D/S. We can’t allow this project to go forward. It’s time now for us to fight and stop this project from going forward. It’s a tough job, but with support and determination we can win . Let’s all save our Western Ghats and our Netravathi River”. Mayya received a loud applaud from the audience for his excellent power-point presentation on this serious issue. Mayya also answered some of the queries posed at him by few participants. Flavy D’Souza-president of Catholic Sabha delivered the vote of thanks.