Cauvery water dispute: What is the dispute, and why has it flared up again?

Farmer bodies, Kannada organisations, and Opposition parties have called for a "bandh" in Bengaluru to protest against the release of water from the Cauvery river in Karnataka to Tamil Nadu

Cauvery, Kaveri river

BS Web Team New Delhi

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Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday said that his government will not curtail the "Bengaluru bandh" on Tuesday as protests over the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu have intensified.

Farmer bodies, Kannada organisations, and Opposition parties have called for a "bandh" in Bengaluru to protest against the release of water from the Cauvery river in Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.

Over 175 organisations from across the state said they stand in solidarity with the farmer groups protesting against the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

In Karnataka's Mandya, protests are underway over the sharing of Cauvery water with Tamil Nadu following the Supreme Court's refusal to interfere in the enforcement of the water-sharing agreements between the states and the decisions of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC).

The Supreme Court stated that it would not take any action against the CWMA's directive instructing the government to discharge 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. A three-judge Bench said that it had no intention of considering Tamil Nadu's appeal that was challenging the CWMA's decision.

The Bench said that the CWMA and the CWRC "must thoroughly assess crucial factors such as drought conditions and insufficient rainfall before issuing any directives".

Last week, Siddaramaiah asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help mediate the dispute between the two states regarding the Cauvery dispute. "The Prime Minister has the authority to summon the two states and hear their arguments. Given this context, we have appealed for the Prime Minister's intervention," the CM said.

The CWMA asked Karnataka to extend the release of 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for an additional 15 days. However, officials said there was a lack of available water to comply with the CWMA order.

The longstanding dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the allocation of Cauvery river water dates back to the British colonial period. A resolution was reached in 1924 when the princely state of Mysore and the presidency of Madras agreed to a compromise.

Under the agreement, Mysore was permitted to construct a dam in Kannambadi village for storage of 44.8 thousand million cubic feet of water, with a review scheduled to take place after 50 years. Following Independence, both states brought the dispute to the Supreme Court multiple times, but no resolution was achieved.

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Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal

In 1990, the government established the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) to settle water disputes among the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry. The CWDT issued a directive to Karnataka to release 205 million cubic feet of water to Tamil Nadu on a monthly or weekly basis.

No extra water accessible for release, says Congress

After the CWMA's directive to release water to Tamil Nadu, Congress leaders in Karnataka said, there is no extra water accessible for release. "Let's set aside party politics and stand united in protecting our state, language, water, land, and culture. The situation has become critical, and there is no distress formula in place," said Siddaramaiah.

Deputy Chief Minister Shivakumar said the state possesses only one-third of the necessary water amount.

"We don't even have water for drinking. We have discussed (this) with all parliament members, who assured us that they are going to support our fight. We are pressing it before the Supreme Court to give us justice. I hope justice will be given to us," Shivakumar added.

Durai Murugan, a DMK leader from Tamil Nadu, said that Karnataka has consistently rejected suggestions put forth by Tamil Nadu regarding the Cauvery water-sharing conflict. He further said that whatever rights Tamil Nadu has secured in this matter have been obtained through legal recourse, specifically by taking the issue to the Supreme Court.

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda said that a solution can only be reached when both parties engage in direct negotiations and discussions.

First Published: Sep 26 2023 | 1:44 PM IST

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