Daily Current Affairs – 13th September, 2016DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
Cauvery water crisis
In News: The Cauvery water dispute has been plaguing Karnataka for a century now and recently, for almost a week, there have been protests against the Supreme Court’s order to Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water for Tamil Nadu.
- The Cauvery River originates in Karnataka and goes on to flow through Tamil Nadu, before meeting the Bay of Bengal. The 765-km-long river cuts across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A lot of its basin area is covered by Kerala and Puducherry. The basin is now claimed by three states and a Union territory: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
Genesis of the trouble
- The latest chapter of the dispute over water-sharing between the two states has been going on since the 1970s and has its origin in two agreements signed between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and the Princely State of Mysore in 1892 and 1924, (It was decided to divide the river water between the two states), which lapsed in 1974.
- Tamil Nadu then asked the Congress-ruled government at the Centre to form a tribunal to look into the diversion of water and ensure that it gets its due share.
- When Centre did not heed to Tamil Nadu demand, it approached the Supreme Court, which, in May 1990, ordered the creation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
- In 1991, the tribunal passed an interim award ordering Karnataka to release 205 tmc ft (thousand million cubic feet) of water every year to Tamil Nadu. This prompted strong and in some places, violent protests in Karnataka, which delayed the release of water.
- For the next 14 years, both sides continued to spar over water-sharing and the legal battle continued, until the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal announced its final award in 2007. The order from the tribunal meant that Karnataka would have to release 192 tmc ft of water from its catchment to Tamil Nadu every year.
- However, the tribunal failed to comprehensively and authoritatively state how the water was to be shared in “distress years”, when the flow in the Cauvery was deficient owing to inadequate rainfall.
- In its latest petition before the Supreme Court, Tamil Nadu said that it had not received the mandated amount of water from the Cauvery between June and August, resulting in a shortfall of about 50 tmc ft.
- Owing to the petition, SC ordered Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu. However, this was met with severe protests in Karnataka.
- The Indian Meteorological Department’s website seems to bear this out. Hasan and Kodagu, two important catchment districts for the Cauvery in Karnataka, have recorded rainfall deficiency. The state was 18 percent short of normal rainfall.
- The decision from Supreme Court, therefore, could worsen Karnataka’s drinking water situation in the state in the coming days. Farmer’s representatives argued that their livelihoods are at stake if Karnataka releases more water.
Tamil Nadu woes
- Farmers in Tamil Nadu have borne the biggest brunt of the crisis and have faced increasing debts and a drastic reduction in their income due to the loss of the summer crop.
- Around 40% of the population in the delta region is landless labourers. As the productivity comes down, it directly has brought down the days of work for farmers.
- The soil on the Tamil Nadu side is fit for only paddy cultivation, which it has been producing for thousands of years.
- Karnataka, on the other hand, is cultivating large-scale water-intense crops such as sugar cane, despite their soil’s dry-land-farming qualities.
- The tribunal’s failure to work out a more expansive formula for distress years has given an excuse to Karnataka to withhold supply repeatedly.
- Even in a bountiful year, there is resistance from various groups in Karnataka to open its dams.