DOUSE THE DISPUTE
Only a water-efficient cropping regime combined with the regeneration of forest cover can provide a lasting solution to the Cauvery imbroglio
THERE IS nothing unnatural about the Cauvery conflict. Any river that runs through different political boundaries is bound to have regions and people fighting over the resource. What is unnatural is the factors that have rendered the water-sharing agreements between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu—the two main stakeholders in the dispute—dysfunctional since they were first drafted in 1872.
This September, the conflict once again dominated the news after Karnataka refused to release water to Tamil Nadu, the downstream state. Karnataka says it cannot share water when the Cauvery reservoirs are barely able to satisfy the drinking water needs of the state. By refusing to share water, it flouted the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal ( cwdt) award of 2007 that mandated a proportionate reduction in each state’s share in rain-deficit years.
This year the two states received deficit rainfall, especially around the source of the river. Tamil Nadu promptly took the matter to the Supreme Court. It maintains that its farmers growing the winter crop of paddy, or samba, are totally dependent on the Cauvery water.
The apex court has made stopgap allocations through three rulings in September. The first was on September 5, which ordered a daily release of 10,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) to Tamil Nadu for 10 days. The order resulted in violent demonstrations in Karnataka. The clashes led to the death of two persons in Bengaluru. Curfew was imposed in several parts of the city. Both the states observed bandhs, bringing life to a standstill. The last order on September 20, which stipulates a daily release of 6,000 cusecs till the end of the month, was also rejected by Karnataka. On September 23, both the Houses of the Karnataka legislature passed a unanimous resolution not to release any water. On September 24, Tamil Nadu released water in the Cauvery delta from the Grand Anicut dam to ensure that the samba crop does not fail.
But the conflict, clearly, is far from over.
R A M U K A R D N YE T A S