Cauvery dispute: SC-appointed panel against outdated water-application ways

The court-appointed technical panel finds that both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are facing acute water shortage


Karnataka has declared 42 out of 48 talukas under the Cauvery basin as drought affected. The state has also been at the receiving end of at least six interim rulings by the apex court to release water to Tamil Nadu, which it has unwillingly complied with. Photo: PTI
Karnataka has declared 42 out of 48 talukas under the Cauvery basin as drought affected. The state has also been at the receiving end of at least six interim rulings by the apex court to release water to Tamil Nadu, which it has unwillingly complied with. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court-appointed panel in its report submitted to the court on Monday recommended doing away with “outdated and unscientific water application techniques” in a bid to resolve the longstanding Cauvery water-sharing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The technical committee, appointed by a bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit on 4 October to access the ground realities in the Cauvery basin, agreed that both the states have been facing water shortage.

“This year is the consecutive low-flow year. During the last five years it has been witnessed that three years are low-flow years,” the committee said in its 40-page report. Mint has reviewed a copy of the report.

The report also stated that the inflows in Karnataka’s reservoirs are 49.76 % of the normal flows and 40.75% at Biligundulu, the point of measurement of releases of water to Tamil Nadu as on 13 October. This could mean that Karnataka might have to release 40.75% of water allocated to Tamil Nadu by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 2007, as the allocated shares will be proportional to inflow.

Karnataka has declared 42 out of 48 talukas under the Cauvery basin as drought affected. The state has also been at the receiving end of at least six interim rulings by the apex court to release water to Tamil Nadu, which it has unwillingly complied with.

“The infrastructure to deliver water to the farmers is century old and has very low-conveyance efficiency. This needs to be modernised for optimal use of scarce water,” the report stated.

The panel has also noted that farmers in both states are in severe distress and adequate crop compensation must be provided to them. “There has been large number of suicides reported in Karnataka’s Mandya district,” the report said in its assessment of the social aspects of the situation in the Cauvery basin.

The nine-member committee is headed by G.S. Jha, chairperson of the Central Water Commission (CWC), and also comprises members nominated by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala.

The court formed the panel after the central government opposed its proposal to form the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) to resolve the Cauvery river water dispute. The CMB was conceived by the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 2007 in which it determined the utilisable quantum of water of the Cauvery at 740 tmcft. Of this, Karnataka is entitled to 270 tmcft, Tamil Nadu (419 tmcft), Kerala (30 tmcft), Puducherry (7 tmcft) and around 14 tmcft is meant for environmental purposes. The Centre notified the award in 2013, but did not constitute a CMB.

The Centre’s case was that the tribunal’s award is itself under challenge by both the states, and in any case, the court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain appeals on inter-state river water disputes under the Constitution.

The case will be heard next on 18 October.

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