Sunday, October 2nd, 2022 14:51:01

Cauvery notification Heartburn In Karnataka

Updated: March 16, 2013 1:38 pm

Karnataka is on the boil as it feels that the notification fails to take into account its need of water. Besides hitting agriculture, it fears that the acute water shortage in Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya, Hassan and Tumkur, could be compounded further


The recent notification of the final award of the Cauvery Waters Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) has sparked an outrage in Karnataka, which sees the move as a grave injustice to it. Besides dealing a big blow to the interests of Karnataka, particularly the Cauvery basin, the state is anguished and feels betrayed. It had strong reservations and made no stone unturned to make its position clear many times.

The concerns of Karnataka are manifold vis-à-vis the final order.

As against the state’s claim of 465 tmc feet, only 270 tmc has been allocated to it. While the entire ‘achkat’ of Tamil Nadu, both within the agreement of 1924 and outside, is protected by the final Tribunal Order, but for Karnataka it has not done so.

Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar felt, “Inspite of the findings of the various Commissions as to the availability of abundant quantity of ground water in Cauvery Delta and in spite of Tamil Nadu’s own admission of availability 47 tmc feet of ground water, the Tribunal has given a finding that a minimum quantity of 20 tmc is available for use in conjunction with surface water. But strangely enough in the final allocation, the Tribunal has not accounted for even this quantity of 20 tmc in the water availability of Tamil Nadu”.

While assessing the drinking water requirement for Bangalore, the fastest growing metro city in the country, the Tribunal’s order has taken into consideration only partial needs of the city leaving out almost two-third of its need. Hence, Bangalore city will face a perpetual water shortage. Similar is the case while making the assessment of the needs of other cities in Karnataka like Mysore, Mandya, Hassan and Tumkur.

According to Karnataka Water Resources Department officials, the unallocated water of 48 tmc has been erroneously re-allocated on population basis which has drastically reduced the availability of crop water and adversely affected the ongoing projects in Karnataka.

In the final order of the Tribunal, the prescription of monthly accounting of the quota on proportionate sharing formula under distress situation without assessing the ground realities has been of great concern. Moreover, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) is yet to finalise the distress sharing formula. Pending this, issuing final notification is going to have a great bearing on the Cauvery Water Dispute.

The dispute assumes larger dimension only during the distress years. Therefore the focus has to be on addressing the situation during that period. Unless this is addressed, the dispute would defy a permanent solution, officials say.

The most important development is that the Tribunal has over-estimated the crop water requirements of Tamil Nadu based on its self-serving affidavits overlooking the objections of Karnataka.

In civil appeals before the Supreme Court, Karnataka has challenged the constitution of a Management Board as proposed by the Tribunal. The proposed Board will protect the interests of lower riparian state—Tamil Nadu—virtually taking control over the Karnataka reservoirs built by the state’s own resources. This would be a draconian measure which is against the spirit of the federal system. Therefore, unless the Civil Appeals are finally decided by the Supreme Court, it is not appropriate to constitute a Management Board until such time CRA should confirm.

Therefore the constitution of a Board/Authority under Section 6 A of the Inter State Water Dispute Act should be done only after the final decision by the Supreme Court in the pending Civil Appeals and also the concerns of Karnataka need to be addressed forthwith, says Karnataka Water Resources Minister Basavaraja Bommai.

“The Tribunal failed to note the gesture of Karnataka that it has shared 5 tmc of water from Krishna Basin for Chennai city. Even for other urban areas namely Mysore, Mandya, Hassan and Tumkur and rural areas, the Tribunal has failed to allocate the due share”, Bommai says.


With the Centre approving the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award, the people of Tamil Nadu are happy because they would not have to launch campaign every year to convince Karnataka to release water for kuruvai, samba and thadali rice crops. Tamil Nadu’s case is somewhat unique. It has a total of seventeen rivers flowing through the state, but the only one which can be called a full-scale river with perennial flow is the Cauvery. There is some water in the Vaigai river, on which the city of Madurai is located, but that is because it gets water from the Periyar river of Kerala through the Mullaperiyar dam. Tamil Nadu argues that Karnataka has more than one river at its disposal while Tamil Nadu has only one, the Cauvery.

Karnataka, on the other hand, says that Tamil Nadu grows three rice crops (actually two, because the samba and the thaladi grow almost simultaneously and the kuruvai is an early crop), while Karnataka can take only one crop a year as the winter there is dry unlike in Tamil Nadu where the north-east monsoon provides huge volume of water. The people of Karnataka feel that the Tamil Nadu farmers waste a great deal of water in rice cultivation, amounting to about 100 tmc feet of water.

Tamil Nadu had been demanding setting up of the water disputes tribual since the late 1970s, but Karnataka got the decision delayed. This was a stratagem, Tamil Nadu people say, in order to delay the formation of the Tribunal so that Karnataka could complete the reservoirs such as the Hemavathi, the Harangi, the Kabini etc. on the tributaries of the Cauvery. These reservoirs store sufficient water for lean season cultivation, alleged Tamil Nadu.

The two states as also the entire country could escape the trauma of seventeen years of unrest and huge expenditure if the governments led by the Congress Party had sincerely taken up the inter-basin transfer of river waters programme launched by late Indira Gandhi in August 1980.This programme had been allowed to lapse into inaction by the past and the present governments led by the Congress for full 25 years.

When in 2002, in the aftermath of the severe drought in the country, the NDA government sought to revive the programme languishing for want of funds, it was dubbed a BJP programme because Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister then. Two components of that programme independently would have resolved the problem of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in a few years, if sincere efforts were made to implement them.

One is the proposal to inter-link the Netravathy and the Hemavathy rivers, both in Karnataka originating in the hills near Sakleshpur in the Hassan district. Anyone visiting Mangalore city cannot miss the sight of the boats plying in the Netravathy. Huge volume of water in this river, coming from heavy monsoon showers, goes waste into the sea. Nearby, the Hemavathy flows southwards and the Netravathi flows westwards to join the Krishnaraj Sagara dam across the Cauvery near Mysore City.

The proposal is to transfer 188 million cubic metres of the surplus water of Netravathy to Hemavathy. The project involves lifting the Netravathy waters to a height of 81 metres in two stages and dropping it into the Hemavathy, which will irrigate about 33,813 hectares of land in the drought-prone Tumkur, Hassan and Mandya districts of Karnataka. It involves a total power requirement of only six megawatt and construction of three tunnels with the total length of 8.4 kilometres. There will be some submergence of land, but there is no human habitation there and so no displacement. If only the various Karnataka governments had undertaken this programme instead of going to the Tribunal, the Netravathy-Hemavathy link would have been completed and the Cauvery basin would have got extra water which would have substantially made up the shortfall because of the Award. No inter-state dispute is involved in this proposed link.

There is another aspect of the inter-basin transfer of water in this context. Almost every year in August, the Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh receives huge volume of rainfall with the result that the discharge of the river to the sea near Rajahmundry goes beyond 30 lakh cusecs. Theoretically speaking if only eight hours of such discharge is withheld and the water transferred to Tamil Nadu through canals and existing rivers, the water so impounded could have been sufficient to irrigate the entire Cauvery delta for one year and fill up the Stanley dam at Mettur one-and-a-half time.

With a discharge of 311 tmc feet in the Godavari during a few days in August, this would have been possible. If a dam across the Godavari was built and this water was transferred southwards, Tamil Nadu need not have sought extra water from the Cauvery annoying the people of Karnataka. There is already a barrage across the Godavari at Dowlaishwaran near Rajahmundry which can be used for diverting surplus Godavari water towards Tamil Nadu through the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Both these schemes are feasible but political parties never took Indira Gandhi’s programme seriously. Even today, the present government is not touching the inter-linking projects in the southern peninsula and insists on implementing them “in a fully consultative manner”, another word for inaction because nothing has been done on this front.

 By Arabinda Ghose

The Tribunal has allocated 55 tmc of water to the Grand Anicut Canal area in Tamil Nadu, even though the Mettur project report undisputedly mentions the requirement for the same as only 42 tmc. The Tribunal has double accounted 22,000 acres of paddy and by such accounting has allocated 4 tmc of additional water to Tamil Nadu.

The final order of the Tribunal has not directed for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board. The Tribunal realising the fact that the constitution of a Board or Authority under Section 6 A of the Act of 1956 is the sole prerogative of the Centre and also having regard to the fact that the regulations will have to be approved by the Parliament under Section 6 A (7) of the ISRWD Act of 1956, has merely recommended the constitution of a Board.

In civil appeals, Karnataka has challenged even the said recommendation for constitution of a Management Board. The proposed Board will adversely affect the absolute authority of the state to regulate its reservoirs derived from Entry-17 of the State List. This would be an unjust and unconstitutional measure which is against the spirit of the cooperative federal system. Therefore, it is not appropriate to constitute a Management Board.

Senior BJP leader and Lok Sabha member from Bangalore South, H N Ananth Kumar said: “Grave injustice has been done to Karnataka, the people of Bangalore and the farmers of the southern Karnataka”.

The final award is against the interests of Karnataka. “I condemn this notification. We always felt that the government of India should have come to the assistance of people of Karnataka because the final award is not equitable”.

The entire basin area in Karnataka is 34,273 square kilometres which is 42 per cent of the state and in Tamil Nadu, it is 44,016 sq kilometers, which is 54 per cent. The share for water under Cauvery Tribunal final award is 270 tmc feet for Karnataka which is only 37 per cent and 419 tmc feet for Tamil Nadu, which is 59 per cent.

“There has been series of injustice done to the state of Karnataka. We were pleading the Tribunal that we should be given 465 tmc feet of water but only 270 tmc feet of water has been given. There is nearly 47 tmc feet of ground water available in Tamil Nadu area. But that has not been accounted for by the Tribunal while sharing the river water”, he says.

“Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities of the country in Asia. The city requires nearly 20 tmc feet of water whereas the Tribunal has not taken this into account. The Tribunal has taken only one-third of the Bangalore population for the purpose of accounting the water requirements of Bangalore”.

“About 20 years back, there has been a final award of the Tribunal about the Ravi-Beas Award. But till today, it has not been notified. The state government of Punjab has gone on a writ petition. Therefore, Ravi-Beas Award has been pending for notification for 20 years. In the case of Karnataka, we got the final Award in 2007 and in 2013 under the pressure of the government of Tamil Nadu, the Centre has buckled and allowed the notification. We condemn that. We would urge and demand the Union government of India that they should not notify section 6A. If they notify section 6A, it will be a great injustice to the state of Karnataka. Already the farmers, the people of Karnataka and the state of Karnataka are in agitation”, Kumar adds.

Says an angry former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo H D Deve Gowda: “The notification of the award is fraught with very serious implications for the people of Karnataka who will be deprived of even drinking water as the award is fundamentally flawed”.

The CWDT has failed to give the requisite position to the drinking water provided from the Cauvery in Karnataka. Bangalore and Mysore with a population of more than 12 million people and also nine district headquarters, 24 taluks and 20,000 villages are connected with the drinking facilities from the Cauvery in Karnataka. “If there is deprivation of drinking water to the population of these cities, towns and villages, the same shall amount to violation of basic, fundamental and human rights of this population”, he argued.

“The basic infirmity in the award being denial of review of the award in future under any circumstances”, Deve Gowda said. “The notification has disastrous repercussions on the people of Karnataka”.

Three months ago, Shettar suggested a three-pronged approach to find an amicable and long-lasting solution outside the purview of the Court and the Tribunal, if possible. He said Karnataka and Tamil Nadu must find ways and means to meet distress situations which come once in four or five years.

“Building reservoirs in the reach below Shivasamudram and Mettur to increase storages in the reach to overcome such difficulties in distress year would be a step forward in the interest of both the states”, he had said. “Such reservoirs can be of use for storage in surplus years, regulation, power production and other uses helping both the states. An expert committee can be set up with representative of both states and the Central Water Commission to look into this proposal and also evolve action plan which can be implemented in a given time frame”.

He suggested: “Mediation Committee of experts can be formed with representatives from both the states to evolve distress formula”.

“To have a disciplined agricultural practice in the irrigation command in Cauvery basin in the two states, to improve the irrigation structures and thereby improve the efficiency, to bring in savings in current consumption and use of modern technology, an experts committee with farmers’ representatives on both sides needs to be set up. The government of India’s assistance is required to both the states to take up measures to achieve these objectives”.

However, his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa did not respond to his suggestions.

The notification of the final order could not have come at a worse time for Karnataka.

Karnataka is facing extreme distress conditions and drought prevails in all the 49 taluks of the Cauvery basin area in the state. The state is reeling under severe drought. The south-west monsoon has failed. The state has experienced the least recorded rainfall in the last 40 years with a rainfall deficiency of 43 per cent.

There is a severe drinking water crisis in the Cauvery basin leading to depletion of ground water table, which has led to drilling deep bore wells.

The agricultural activity has suffered a setback due to failure of rabi crops previous year and the kharif in 2013. Also it has led to the delay of sowing in the irrigation command area.


The Cauvery rises in the Western Ghats in Karnataka and flows down through the plains before entering into the Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu. From the point of its rise to the mouth, the river is the lifeline for agrarian community on both of its sides.

The competitive demand for water has been the bone of contention among the riparian states for the last two centuries. Sadly, the issues were historically attempted to be resolved by applying archaic rules of natural flow theory and prescriptive rights. Shortsighted approach of the imperial masters imposing the Agreements of 1892 and 1924 led to the uneven development in the Cauvery basin.

With the strength of the agreements, Tamil Nadu had marched ahead with irrigation to the extent of 28.20 lakh acres in 1972. Tamil Nadu using the same agreements restricted irrigation in Karnataka to the extent of 6.82 lakh acres in 1972, even though Karnataka contributes undoubtedly about 54 per cent of the available flows in the Cauvery basin. When Karnataka asserted its rights, the Tribunal was imposed on it.

The Tribunal by its interim order dated June 25, 1991 read with orders dated April 03, 1992 and December 19, 1995 directed Karnataka to ensure 205 tmc feet of water at the Mettur reservoir in a normal year, accounted at the end of the season. But, this interim order was passed without conducting any investigation and before the pleadings were completed. In the final order dated February 05, 2007, the Tribunal directed Karnataka to make available 192 tmc feet at the inter-state border Biligundlu in a normal year.

Bangalore depends on Cauvery waters for drinking water supply. The total requirement of city in 2025 AD is estimated to be 30 tmc. Presently, the supply is only about 19 tmc, which has caused severe shortage in many parts of the city.

Both in the interim and final orders, the Tribunal failed to lay down any comprehensive guidelines on sharing of waters during distress situation. In the interim order, without intending to spell out any general rule, the Tribunal suggested for pro-rata sharing and in this regard, wanted parties to apply for directions, if any.

The final order while suggesting proportionate sharing of distress, laid emphasis on the “practical difficulties” to be considered by the implementing agency. When the application of simplistic pro-rata methodology was confronted with the difficulties, this CRA in its third meeting held on October 10, 2001 decided to “work out an acceptable and equitable procedure for pro-rata sharing of the distress” in the Cauvery basin.

The Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC) appointed a sub-group which unfortunately failed to evolve any equitable procedure. Its recommendations are reiteration of the pro-rata rule in its simplistic form of arithmetical reduction in shares, which is not equitable and looks more like a pound of flesh approach.

The Cauvery dispute has a long drawn pre-independence history. In spite of Tribunal order and CRA mechanism, an amicable solution has eluded the warring parties. Will the notification of the final order of CWDT lead to some of kind of solution? Not really, as far as Karnataka is concerned.

By Rajesh Kamath from Bengaluru




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