Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu refuses to die. Protesters in both the states have taken to the streets against a Supreme Court order. On September 5, the apex court had ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water for the next 10 days to meet the needs of the Samba crop in Tamil Nadu. This amount of water was almost double of the amount Karnataka is sharing with its neighbour.
There have been several reports of attacks on residents of both states by their respective opponents. Unable to curb the protests, the Karnataka government on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking a revision of the order. Karnataka government approached the apex court with the plea that a revision was necessary as the dispute has created a law and order problem. However, the apex court expressed its anguish over the “tone and tenor” of Karnataka’s plea, saying law and order problem can’t be ground for not complying with its order.
It seems that the several-decades-old dispute is unlikely to be over soon. Here are eight things you need to know about the dispute:
1. Course of river Cauvery
The river originated in Talakaveri in Kodagu district of Karnataka. It flows 800 km in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and reaches the Bay of Bengal through Poompuhar in Tamil Nadu. The Cauvery basin covers about 81155 sq km area. Out of this 43,856 sq km is in Tamil Nadu, 34,273 sq km in Karnataka, 2866 sq km in Kerala and 160 sq km in Puducherry.
2. What is the dispute?
The initial dispute was between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu but later Kerala and Puducherry also entered the fray. The issue dates back to 1892 when an agreement was filed between Madras Presidency and Mysore for arbitration but led to a fresh set of disputes. Later, attempts were renewed to arbitrate between the two states under the supervision of Government of India and the second agreement was signed in 1924.
3. Dispute after independence
After independence, Kerala and Puducherry also claimed a share in the Cauvery water. The government of India set up a fact-finding committee in 1970 in this regard. The committee submitted its report in 1972. After some further studies were done by experts, the states reached an agreement in 1976. However, later, the new government in Tamil Nadu refused to give its consent to the terms of the agreement, fueling further dispute.
4. Request for Tribunal
In 1986, the Tamil Nadu government asked for the constitution of a tribunal for solving the conflict under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. The tribunal was set up on June 2, 1990 after the Supreme Court took cognizance of the matter and ordered the Central government to do so.
5. 2007 verdict
The tribunal announced its final order in 2007 after 16 years of hearing and an interim order. As per the final order, 419 tmc water was given to Tamil Nadu and 270 tmc water to Karnataka. Kerala and Puducherry received 30 tmc ft and 7 tmc ft water respectively. However, both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu filed a review petition before the tribunal.
As chairman of Cauvery River Authority, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directed the Karnataka government to release 9,000 cusecs of water daily in 2012. The apex court slammed the state government as it failed to comply with the order. The Karnataka government offered an unconditional apology and started the release of the water leading to widespread violent protests.
6. Who called for the recent protests first?
As soon as the Supreme Court’s September 5 order became public, Cauvery Horata Samiti, the organisation which has been at the forefront of the issue in Karnataka, called for a statewide ‘bandh’. This led to violent protests across the state by farmers, affecting public transport facilities, schools, colleges and government offices in Mandya.
7. Why Karnataka doesn’t want to follow SC order now?
Tension over Cauvery water become intense when there is less rainfall. This had happened in 1991, 2001, 2012 and it is happening even now. Karnataka has faced continuous drought. For two seasons, farmers have not been able to grow rice. Shortage of water will put the standing crops in Karnataka’s Mandya district at risk, affecting everyone in Mandya, including some Tamils living in the district. At present, according to Karnataka government, the reservoirs in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka has only about 51 tmc of water. This may be sufficient only for the drinking water needs of people in south Karnataka and not enough for release to Tamil Nadu.
Krishna Raja Sagar dam – the primary reservoir in the Cauvery basin – had only 37 per cent of the reservoir capacity at 18.28 tmc till September 6. If Karnataka releases the water, the Congress government in the state may face the ire of the farmers.
8. Cauvery dispute and politics: Will it ever end?
Over the years, the Cauvery water dispute has influenced the politics of the region with political parties stirring emotions of people as the river has a deep cultural, economic and religious significance for them. This has now led to a situation where public opinion has become more rigid, making it difficult for political outfits to find a common ground.