CAUVERY RIVER WATER DISPUTE (08 Sep 2016)
Geography: Cauvery River
River Cauvery originates at Talacauvery in Kodagu district in Karnataka. While it flows mainly through Karanataka and Tamil Nadu, its basin covers areas in Kerala and Puducherry as well.
History of Cauvery Dispute
The Cauvery dispute started in the year 1892, between the Madras Presidency (under the British Raj) and the Princely State of Mysore when they had to come to terms with dividing the river water between the two states.
Since then, Cauvery water has been a bone of contention between the two states.
In 1924, an agreement was signed between the two states by which regulation of the Krishnarajsagar dam were agreed. The 1924 agreement gave both, the Madras presidency and the Mysore state, rights to use the surplus waters of the Cauvery.
According to the 1892 and the 1924 agreements the river water was distributed as follows:
- 75 percent with Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
- 23 percent to Karnataka and
- remaining to go to Kerala.
Madras had objected to the construction of the Krishnarajsagar dam and hence the agreement gave Madras the liberty to build the Mettur dam. The agreement put restrictions on the extent of area irrigated by both Madras and Mysore.
A highly controversial agreement was arrived at, in 1924, and was designed to continue for the following 50 years.
The real problem started after the re-organization of states post Indian independence. Before that, most matters were settled through arbitration and agreements.
Through the late 20th century, Tamil Nadu opposed the construction of dams on the river by Karnataka, and Karnataka in turn wanted to discontinue the water supply to Tamil Nadu.
Karnataka argued that the 1924 agreement lapsed when its 50 years were up in 1974. Considering that the river originated in Karnataka, the state had greater claim over the river.
Tamil Nadu too had become heavily dependent on the river after they developed millions of agricultural land around the river. Tamil Nadu argued that the livelihood of farmers would be affected if there was a change in the distribution of water.
Karnataka in turn argued that the river water should be divided according to international rules, i.e. in equal portions. They suggested that 94 percent could be divided equally between them and the rest could be distributed to Kerala and Puducherry.
Tamil Nadu wanted to stick to the original distribution, according to the 1924 agreement.
The river dispute has attracted some of the most extreme protests and ‘dharnas’ since 1986.
In 2007, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) held valid the agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the government of Madras and Mysore.Protests still continued.
Current Status of Cauvery Dispute
Noting that the samba crops in Tamil Nadu would be adversely affected, the Supreme Court in September 2016 ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs every day for the next 10 days to Tamil Nadu, and since then the tensions have escalated resulting in mass protests and ‘bandhs’ called by pro-Kannada leaders.
According to CM of Karnataka, in the light of Supreme Court order, Karnataka will release water to Tamil Nadu despite severe hardships.
Karnataka says it cannot release water to TN for agriculture as it needs it for drinking water purposes. Karnataka will also file a petition before the apex court seeking modification in the apex court order.
The final hearing is due on October 18, 2016.
Cauvery River Dispute: Prognosis
Water is a scarce resource for the society. Rising population and depletion of water resources are going to aggravate the problem further in future. Political solution to sharing of river waters, like Cauvery is difficult to reach and judicial resolution of the problem will have to be found. Unfortunately, judicial resolutions may appear unfair to the contesting states. We have not thus seen the end of the dispute and protests. These are likely to continue in the future as well and maybe worse than what we have witnessed till date. Society will need to manage the scarce water resource better to prevent disputes and violence in future.