Bengaluru: Tribal rights activists say building the damn at Mekedatu will have adverse social and economic impacts on tribals who depend on forests and the river for their livelihood. So tribals and local environmentalists fear that they will lose their livelihood because of the dam construction. “The tribes that are living here will lose their livelihood and culture. So, everything will be gone, the trees that they have, the place where they live and the temples that they have. There is section called Lambadi and those people earn their livelihood by selling the forest minerals. So many tribal people, who have lived here for decades, will have nowhere to go and nothing to do,” informed Krishna Murthy, Tribal rights activist and representative. It is expected that Mekadatu dam will submerge more than 5000 hectare of forest land and five villages surrounding it. These villages are a home to many tribal communities like Iruliga, Bamcha, Kurumans and Sholaga. Experts say there are alternative ways to get Bengaluru the water it needs. “It is one of the largest elephants’ corridors. They are saying that this is to provide water, but if your treat the sewage water that we produce, 50 percent of our water needs will be fulfilled. Why not take measures for better rainwater harvesting or waste water recycling,” said Dr A N Yallappa Reddy. Mekadatu is a 9,000-crore project. It aims to provide 400 MW of hydro electricity and solve Bangalore’s drinking water issues.
The Karnataka governmenthas announced Rs. 1,000 crores for the project in the recent budget and is waiting for environmental clearance by the Centre. The opposition party, Indian National Congress also stated a ‘padyatra’ demanding the project.
“The feasibility report is waiting. When it comes, all the suggestions that are given by the expert committee will be done. See our primary objective is to not harm anything. Not even the Adivasis. We will protect their culture. We will take those adivasis and take the necessary rehabilitation process,” said BJP spokesperson MG Mahesh.