Cauvery Water Dispute

  • Tamil Nadu has asked the Supreme Court to order Karnataka to provide 24,000 cusecs of water immediately.
  • According to the judgement of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT), the state requests the release of 36.76 TMC for September 2023.

The Cauvery Water Dispute: A Historical Overview

  • The water conflict began in 1892, when the British-ruled Madras Presidency clashed with the princely state of Mysore (now Karnataka).
  • Agreement of 1924: A 50-year accord brokered by the British attempted to reduce tensions but merely lay the framework for future disputes.
  • Post-Independence Battles: In the 1960s and 1980s, Karnataka’s dam development prompted Tamil Nadu to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was formed as a result.
  • Temporary Measures: In 1998, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) enacted temporary orders. Despite the CWDT’s 2013 win, contentious concerns persisted.
  • Final Award: In 2013, the CWDT awarded water quantities to Tamil Nadu (419 TMC), Karnataka (270 TMC), Kerala (30 TMC), and Puducherry (7 TMC).

Water Sharing Criteria

  • Monthly Schedule: Karnataka, the upper riparian state, is required to provide a certain amount of water to Tamil Nadu each month.
  • Annual Allotment: Karnataka must deliver 177.25 TMC to Tamil Nadu in a “normal” year, with 123.14 TMC during the southwest monsoon.
  • Challenges: The monsoon season is a turbulent time when arguments frequently emerge due to changing rainfall.

Water Sharing Provisions in the Constitution

  • Article 262: Allows Parliament to address inter-state river disputes; the IRWD Act, 1956 was enacted as a result of this clause.
  • In Entry 17 (State List) and Entry 56 (Union List), the seventh schedule defines legislative authority over water resources.

Resolving Cauvery Water Sharing

(A) Supreme Court’s 2018 Verdict

  • Cauvery as a National Asset: The Supreme Court proclaimed the Cauvery River to be a “national asset” and affirmed inter-state river water equality.
  • Allotment Adjustments: Because the Court found flaws in the CWDT’s estimate, Karnataka received minimal relief and Tamil Nadu’s allotment was cut to 177.25 TMC.
  • The Court directed the formation of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) to ensure the efficient implementation of directives.

(B) Cauvery Water Management Scheme

  • The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) was established with the support of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) to govern water releases.
  • Permanent and Technical Bodies: The CWMA is in charge of water regulation, while the CWRC is in charge of data collecting and final award implementation.

Current Situation and Implications:

  • The Cauvery water dispute is still a continuing issue with historical and legal implications.
  • Resource Management: The formation of the CWMA and CWRC intends to resolve the conflict through proper water management.
  • Struggle Continues: The debate highlights the complexities of water sharing under a federal system and the need for equitable solutions.

Tamil Nadu’s Argument

  • The CWMA requested 10,000 cusecs from Karnataka for 15 days, but Karnataka only offered 8,000 cusecs until August 22.
  • Previous Agreement: At the CWRC meeting, Tamil Nadu was irritated by Karnataka’s failure to stick to the former agreement of 15,000 cusecs for 15 days.
  • Distress-sharing Formula: Although the TN CM favours a distress-sharing formula, Karnataka has not adopted one.

Karnataka’s Rainfall Deficit:

  • Karnataka claims that lesser rainfall in Cauvery’s catchment areas, particularly Kerala, has resulted in lower inflow into its reservoirs.
  • A Difficult Situation: Karnataka reported that it was unable to deliver water because reservoirs received less inflow this year.
  • Inconsistency: Despite Karnataka’s support for the formula, the state refused to accept it.

Future Prospects

  • Concerns for Tamil Nadu: The Mettur reservoir’s storage capacity is severely low, posing a threat to farmers and the next kuruvai harvest.
  • Water scarcity: Considering dead storage and drinking water needs, present water supplies may last barely 10 days.
  • Waiting for the Supreme Court: The result of the case now depends on the Supreme Court’s interpretation and conclusion.
  • Resolution Required: There is a clear need for a mutually agreed distress-sharing formula.

Current Issues and Factors Extending the Dispute:

  • Flood-drought cycles, pollution, and groundwater depletion have all contributed to erratic water levels.
  • Idealistic Calculations: The Supreme Court’s decision is based on favourable conditions that do not always match reality.
  • Dependence and population: Both states rely extensively on the river, resulting in competing water needs for urban and agricultural areas.
  • Inefficient Water Use: Due to inefficient irrigation systems, crop output per unit of water used is poor.
  • Hydropolitics and Delays: Political parties use water issues to mobilise their supporters. Delays are exacerbated by lengthy tribunal adjudications.
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