What is the Cauvery dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka?
Background: Passing through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before finally joining the Bay of Bengal, the Cauvery is a significant river in southern India. The origin of the dispute dates back to the late 1800s, when agreements were reached between the princely state of Mysore (now part of Karnataka) and the Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu).Key Issues: Mainly, the dispute concerns the allocation of water resources during periods of water scarcity, distribution of water in regular years, and establishment of reservoirs and dams along the river course. Both states are vying for a larger share of the river’s water to meet the needs of their expanding populations and agricultural activities.
Farmers in Karnataka have protested over the release of Cauvery water in Tamil Nadu.
Over time, the Cauvery dispute has witnessed a series of agreements, disagreements and legal battles. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was formed in 1990 and aims to address water disputes involving Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry.
The CWDT took 17 years to arrive at a definitive decision in 2007, outlining the distribution of Cauvery water among the four riparian states. During periods of water scarcity, water will be distributed on a pro-rata basis.
In February 2007, the CWDT released its final award, detailing water allocations to the four states in the Cauvery basin based on a total availability of 740 TMC in a typical year. The latest decision, which outlines the annual water allocation between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, has been difficult to implement, with both states expressing dissatisfaction with the tribunal’s verdict on various occasions. In 2018, the Supreme Court declared the Cauvery River a national resource and upheld the water-sharing arrangements referred to by the CWDT. Additionally, the Central Government has been directed to formalize the Cauvery Management Scheme.Karnataka’s view of the situation
The main points of disagreement in the Cauvery dispute are the distribution of water in normal years, the sharing of water in drought years, and the construction of reservoirs and dams along the river. To meet the needs of its increasing population and agriculture, each state is seeking a larger share of the river’s water.
The latest controversy arose because Karnataka refused to adhere to previously agreed water release volumes.
Farmers in Tamil Nadu protested by holding rats in their mouths over the Cauvery water dispute.
Tamil Nadu has asked for the release of 10,000 cusecs of water over a 15-day period, while Karnataka has proposed a lower water release of 8,000 cusecs for the same 15-day period.
Karnataka cited inadequate inflow due to reduced rainfall in the Cauvery catchment, which includes the source point of Kodagu. The state government said that from June to August, Kodagu saw a 44% deficit in rainfall.
To press its demand, Tamil Nadu petitioned the Supreme Court for help in guaranteeing that Karnataka releases 24,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) of water from its reservoir. In response, Karnataka argued in the Supreme Court that Tamil Nadu failed to recognize that 2023 was a “distressed water year” rather than a “normal water year.”
The Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, DK Shivakumar, requested a reconsideration of this decision due to water shortage issues in the Cauvery basin area since the onset of this year’s monsoon. Consequently, the state has formally written to the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), urging them to review the order to release 10,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu.
The Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, based on the deliberations of a meeting held on Tuesday, has recommended Karnataka to release 3000 cusecs to Biligundlu from September 28 to October 15.
Political tug of war
BJP leaders and former Chief Ministers of Karnataka, HD Kumaraswamy and Basavaraj Bommai, criticized the state government, accusing it of putting politics ahead of people’s welfare. The BJP claims that the Congress government is releasing Cauvery water to support its ally DMK, a part of India’s newly formed opposition bloc, in preparation for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the course of action.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Shobha Karandlaje, has expressed concern that releasing Cauvery water for political reasons could lead to drinking water shortages for farmers in Mandya and Mysuru , as well as to the residents of Bengaluru.
Former Chief Minister Kumaraswamy questioned the Karnataka government’s stance on the issue, highlighting the critical water shortage faced by farmers.