Cauvery River Row: Where Water flares the flame

The Cauvery water dispute, which has been a bone of contention amongst Karnataka and Tamil Nadu throughout recent decades, has again prompted brutality in the area after Supreme Court affirmed its order.

Created On: Sep 20, 2016 10:37 ISTModified On: Sep 20, 2016 11:55 IST

Cauvery water disputeThe Cauvery water dispute, which has been a bone of contention amongst Karnataka and Tamil Nadu throughout recent decades, has again prompted brutality in the area after Supreme Court affirmed its order. The court has guided Karnataka state government to discharge 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu for the following 10 days trying to spare the samba crops.

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Cauvery Horata Samiti, the association which has been at the cutting edge of issue in Karnataka, required a statewide "bandh" prompting vicious dissents by farmers. The disruption has affected public transport offices, schools, universities and government workplaces in Mandya.

The Cauvery water debate has affected the local politics for long with gatherings mixing feelings of individuals as the river has a profound social, economic and religious significance for them. This, thus, prompted a circumstance where the general assessment turned out to be more rigid with time, making it even troublesome for the political parties to locate a shared conviction.

Map Cauvery River

Why so much angst about the Cauvery?
The waterway Cauvery is the biggest in southern India, and starts close Mercara in the Coorg area at a height of 1,341 m (4400 ft) above ocean level towards the Western Ghats, taking an easterly course through the conditions of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, before joining the Bay of Bengal.

The Cauvery's upper hill catchment lies in Karnataka and Kerala. It is affected by the typically tried and true south-west storm amid June to September. Its lower part lies in the plains of Tamil Nadu, served by the not really dependable north-east Monsoon amid October to December.

In specialized water law dialect, Karnataka is the upper riparian state where the waterway begins; Tamil Nadu is a lower riparian state. Puducherry needs its offer of the Cauvery on the grounds that it is the place the stream streams into the Bay of Bengal. Also, Kerala really contributes more water to the waterway than it can use, as a result of its topography.

How old is the dispute over the Cauvery?
It is over 150 years of age. Amidst the nineteenth century, the administration of Mysore (as Karnataka was then called) needed to assemble various new irrigation project. This made nervousness what was then the condition of Madras, which was reliant on the Cauvery for water system.

After a few rounds of dialogs between the two and the government of India, an assention was marked in 1892, which represented various interstate streams. Another understanding was marked in 1924, identifying with the utilization, conveyance, and control of the Cauvery waters particularly.

Both understandings expressed that current water system ought not be hindered by the development of new works upstream, and downstream irrigation ought not be decreased. Besides, all works must in the arranging stages be affirmed by the downstream state government (i.e., Tamil Nadu for Cauvery's situation).

At the end of the day, under the law Mysore could do nothing that would reduce water supply to Tamil Nadu, the lower riparian state.

Karnataka did not execute these agreements or understanding. Rather, it shaped four new projects by developing dams over the tributaries of Cauvery, without getting leeway from the Centre, Planning Commission, and Central Water Commission.
In 1910, the administration of Mysore proposed a reservoir at Kannambadi, and looked for the assent of the Madras government under the 1892 understanding. As the Madras government did not concur, it was alluded to arbitration.

The arbitration board's grant was not adequate to the Madras government and it appealed. At the point when the Government of India did not intercede, moves were started that prompted the consenting to of the 1924 Arrangement.

The dispute Timeline:

  • Feb 5, 2007: After 16 years, Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal holds as valid the two agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the governments of Madras and Mysore on the apportionment of water to Tamil Nadu

    The final award makes an annual allocation of 419 tmcft to Tamil Nadu in the entire Cauvery basin, 270 tmcft to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry out of the total 740 TMC available in the Cauvery basin in a normal year.

    Sept 19, 2012: At the seventh meeting of the CRA, Manmohan Singh directs Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu at Biligundlu. Both the CMs — Jayalalithaa and Jagadish Shettar — term it "unacceptable". This is the first CRA meet since the UPA came to power at the Centre in 2004.
  • Sept 28, 2012: The Supreme Court slams the Karnataka government for not complying with the PM’s direction.
  • Feb 29, 2013: The Centre notifies the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT). The Central government was mandated to constitute the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) simultaneously with the gazette notification of the final award of the Tribunal dated February 19.
  • March 10, 2013: The Tamil Nadu chief minister says she will work for the formation of the Cauvery Water Board during a felicitation ceremony organised in Thanjavur for her efforts to get the final award notified in the Union gazette.
  • March 19, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves the Supreme Court to give directions to the water ministry for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.
  • May 28, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court, seeking Rs 2,480 crore in damages from Karnataka for not following the orders of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • June 1, 2013:The Union water resources secretary chairs the first meeting of the supervisory committee in which Tamil Nadu demanded its share of water for June as stipulated in the award.
  • June 2, 2013: Water cannot be released as and when TN demands, says Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah.
  • June 6, 2013:Karnataka says it cannot release 134 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu between June and September.
  • June 12, 2013:The Cauvery Supervisory Committee terms as not "feasible" Tamil Nadu’s plea for direction to Karnataka for release of Cauvery water.
  • June 14, 2013:Tamil Nadu decides to file contempt plea against Karnataka for its stand on the Cauvery Supervisory Committee.
  • June 15, 2013:Chief minister Jayalaithaa says the Tamil Nadu government will approach the Supreme Court for the formation of the Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulatory Authority.
  • June 26, 2013:Contending that the setting up of a supervisory committee had become a futile exercise, Tamil Nadu moves SC for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.
  • June 28, 2013:Tamil Nadu files contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah for his defiant stand against the Supervisory Committee
  • July 15, 2013:Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clash during the third meeting of the Cauvery Supervisory Committee over the latter’s share of the river water. While Tamil Nadu sought 34 tmcft in July and 50 tmcft in August to save the Samba crop, Karnataka says that it had already released 34 tmcft between June and July 13.
  • August 2016: Tamil Nadu asks the Supreme Court to direct Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu after Siddaramiah says there is no water in the reservoirs.
  • Sept 6, 2016:SC directs Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs a day till Sept 15. Protests break out in Karnataka

Current Affairs for IAS Prelims

Rivers are complicated?
It is. Not only in India, but also at a global level. Internbational law has reams of statute on interstate streams (waterways that go through the regions of the few states), saying that such waters can't be said to be situated in any one state, and that no state can assert select responsibility for waters to deny other downstream state of their equitable offer.

In this way, no state can successfully legislate for the utilization of such waters, since its administrative force does not reach out past its territories.
In a federal system, for example, India, things are similar.

What are the grievances of Tamil Nadu?

TN says that the aggregate volume of water from Karnataka for streaming down to the Mettur dam is turning out to be less and less. It additionally affirms that the water discharges were not being made in time to address the issue of development of crops, especially in the Cauvery delta of TN.

TN needs the yearly discharges to be made in a managed way, from week to week, from June to May.

How did the latest dispute start?

There are four parties to the debate—Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.

Karnataka built four projects on and close to the Cauvery: Harangi, Kabini, Hemavathi and Suvarnavathy. For these, Karnataka did not get the earlier assent of the Tamil Nadu government.

From 1974, Karnataka began diverting river flows into the four new supplies. Not able to resolve the dispute, the Center alluded it to the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) in 1990.
So, why Supreme Court order made the Kannadigas unhappy?
On 5 September, a SC bench involving judges Dipak Misra and Uday Umesh Lalit asked Karnataka to discharge 15,000 cusecs (cubic feet every second) of water every day to Tamil Nadu for 10 days. Tamil Nadu was asked to discharge water proportionately to downstream Puducherry.

What did Karnataka agree to and what was Tamil Nadu’s demand?
Well, Karnataka was willing to discharge less water, that is, 10,000 cusecs, while Tamil Nadu needed more, that is, 20,000 cusecs for the 10-day time frame from 5 September.

So, it was easy for SC to pick the median and it should have made both sides happy?
Indeed, that is the thing that the Misra-led SC bench would have though, however considering the savagery in the city of Karnataka, the court's intercession in this way has not helped to resolve this crisis.
On 12th September, the SC requested Karnataka to discharge 12,000 cusecs of water a day to Tamil Nadu until 20 September. That implies Karnataka will wind up discharging more water to its neighbor.

But, why SC even get dragged into this dispute whereas CWDT is supposed to sort this issue?
Well, it’s interesting and long story.

The CWDT had awarded the decision in 1991, for Tamil Nadu, which then told Karnataka to implement it. Karnataka was not willing. In this way, Tamil Nadu recorded suit in the Supreme Court in 2001. It is as yet pending. The next hearing of that suit is on 18th October 2016.

Meanwhile, the CWDT gave its final decision in 2007 (which likewise in fact supplanted the 1892 and 1924 agreement to water sharing). What's more, the most recent SC orders have been appealed in special leave petitions (SLPs) submitted by Tamil Nadu against Karnataka.

Well, then what was CWDT interim order of 1991?
The Tribunal guided Karnataka to guarantee that 205,000 million cubic feet (TMC) of water was accessible in Tamil Nadu's Mettur Reservoir in a year from June to May.

What happened then?
Karnataka proclaimed a law, followed by an Act, to discredit the impact of the tribunal ruling.

The President then made a reference to the Supreme Court for its opinion. The SC addressed this reference in November 1991, saying the statute and the Act were unconstitutional and beyond the legislative power of the State.

In 1998, Centre set up the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and a monitoring committee (MC). The CRA incorporated the Prime Minister, and the chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and of Puducherry. The MC included secretary of the union minister of water resources, and chief secretaries of the three states, and Puducherry, Chairman, Central Water Commission, and others. The CRA and the MC should manage issues on sharing of waters every now and then.

So, CRA and the MC failed to resolve matters?

Yes, it shows up so. Regardless, nobody knows whether despite everything they exist, as another supervisory committee has been set up in their place in 2013.

Why Tamil Nadu approaches the SC time and again?
Normally, Tamil Nadu approaches the SC for a bearing to Karnataka to accept and comply to what requested by the tribunal, setting a timetable for arrival of the water in various months of the year.

On the majority of these events, Karnataka comes up with the excuse that as a result of the lacking precipitation, it had not been workable for it to entirely consent to the interim order by discharging the amount of water as coordinated.

What does the 2007 final order of the Tribunal say and what is the conclusion it drawn?
The Tribunal, in a unanimous decision, decided the aggregate accessibility of water in the Cauvery basin at 740 TMC at the Lower Coleroon Anicut site, including 14 TMC for environmental protection and drainage into the ocean.

The final award made a yearly allotment of 419 TMC to Tamil Nadu in the whole Cauvery basin, 270 TMC to Karnataka, 30 TMC to Kerala, and 7 TMC to Puducherry.
It characterized an "normal or ordinary year" as one in which the aggregate yield of the Cauvery basin is 740 TMC. In a normal ordinary year, Karnataka needs to discharge to Tamil Nadu at Biligundulu 192 TMC (as against 205 TMC in the interim award) in every month. It includes 182 TMC from the designated share of TN, including 10 TMC for environmental purposes.

In a distressed year, the distributed shares are to be proportionately lessened among Kerala, Karnataka, TN and Puducherry.

The Tribunal likewise prescribed setting up the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) to actualize the Tribunal's order, and said, otherwise, "its choice would just be on a bit of paper".

Furthermore, its most part remained on paper only: the CMB has not yet been set up, despite the fact that the order has been published in the official periodical on 19 February 2013, and is binding.

What is the supervisory committee, then?
The supervisory committee was constituted by the Ministry of Water Resource in 2013., and incorporates individuals from the Ministry of Water Resource, chief secretaries of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, and the CWC.

The function of committee was to offer impact to the execution of the Tribunal order of 5 February 2007.

Clearly, this council replaces the past Cauvery River Authority and the checking advisory group, set up in 1998, and is viewed as a contrasting option to the Board, proposed by the Tribunal.

The most recent Supreme Court order has requested that Tamil Nadu approach the supervisory committee to deal with its grievance.

Anyway SC got involved, so what was the point?

The way that the Supreme Court mediated suggests that the Judiciary is maybe pointlessly getting included in matters that are past its ability. The SC could have recently requested that this committee to meet urgently and resolve the crisis amicably, contend observers.

But Supreme Court resolved the dispute now?
It is basically a federal debate, and should be resolved amicably between the states on the grounds that the issue is so intricate. Top-down settling by the Supreme Court will unavoidably support one state and estrange another.

The state that is seen to have lost in the case then can't control popular sentiments in the state, and will again prompt appeal, as has now apparently happened again against the SC judgment.

In this manner, the matter truly must be managed by an expert body including proficient subject expert of both States.

Will the dispute drag on and continue to the next century?

It will, if the states concerned don't show development and rather continually depend on suit, knowing completely well that the Supreme Court can't enforce the Tribunal's last order. And at whatever point there are legal battles fought in court, emotions run high in both states on the issue.

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