Supreme Court accepts govt’s Cauvery water-sharing resolution
The Supreme Court tells centre to implement scheme before monsoon session of Parliament
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday accepted the amended draft scheme submitted by the centre that will govern Cauvery water distribution between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra found the amended draft scheme in consonance with its 16 February order and Section 6A of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 and asked for it to be implemented before the monsoon session of Parliament.
The changes proposed by the apex court in the earlier draft scheme included changing the name of from authority to board, shifting of the headquarters to New Delhi and removing the clause that said the centre’s decision is final.
The centre on 14 May proposed, in its draft scheme for sharing of Cauvery water between the four southern states, the setting up of a nine-member authority to ensure smooth water distribution.
Thereafter, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala suggested certain changes to the draft, claiming that it was not in consonance with the earlier order of the court.
The body has finally been named the Cauvery Water Management Authority and the headquarters have been shifted to New Delhi.
The function of the authority will be to ensure effective implementation of the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal’s order of 2007 along with modifications made to it by the apex court in February.
This will involve determination of the total residual storage in various reservoirs on 1 June every year.
The authority will also take stock of the utilization/releases and storage in the river basin every two months and assess the trend of inflows so as to authorize withdrawal of water to the states.
On 16 February, the court asked Karnataka to release 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water to Tamil Nadu as against an earlier quantum of 192tmcft. The new water sharing scheme would be applicable for the next 15 years. The court had also directed the central government to constitute the Cauvery Water Management Board within six weeks to supervise implementation of the order.
The Cauvery water dispute is more than 150 years old and has its origins in the 1894 and 1924 agreements for water sharing between the then presidency states of Madras and Mysore. These agreements will remain in force despite the Reorganization Act, 1956, having taken effect, the order stated.
The judgment was passed on a batch of appeals by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, challenging the 2007 award passed by the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal which determined the utilizable quantum of water in the Cauvery at 740 tmcft.
The award had made 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. It was notified by the government in 2013. Out of the 419 tmcft allocated to Tamil Nadu, 192 tmcft would be supplied by Karnataka.
Over the years, the apex court has passed a series of orders setting different limits to the volume of water to be released by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
On 12 September 2016, the court asked Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water per day for seven days, revising its earlier order of 5 September to release 15,000 cusecs per day till 16 September.
The state was thereafter directed on 20 September to release 6,000 cusecs of water a day to Tamil Nadu from 21 to 27 September. This was extended for three more days until 30 September.
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