Yettinahole river diversion in Karnataka

The Yettinahole Diversion Project, supported by the Karnataka Government, involves construction of eight small dams in the upper reaches of Western Ghats near Sakleshpur to divert tributaries of the Gundia River to arid eastern districts, including Kolar and Chikkaballapur. A purpose of the project is to enhance drinking water supplies but diverted flows will also be used for irrigation and industrial activities. The project risks causing severe ecological stress on the river system, which in turn will impact local fisheries, agriculture and drinking water for surrounding communities. Several challenges to the project have been launched in the courts and the NGT over the years.

A qualitative study was conducted in 2018 using semi-structured interviews, a document review and transects walks. Preliminary results show that the exemptions for drinking water projects in the environmental impact assessment process and rehabilitation and resettlement policy were both a key trigger of legal disputes and barriers to procedural justice, i.e., lack of access to decision making and judicial remedies. Further, procedural barriers were seen in the high cost of litigation, the considerable time required for petitioners to be involved in court proceedings, and prolonged legal timelines. Overall, these hurdles, along with the highly political nature of the project, were detrimental to the prospects for achieving distributive justice, or equity in the distribution of benefits and adverse impacts of the project.