Cauvery Water Dispute

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  • The disturbance between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over Cauvery river dates back to the nineteenth century i.e. from British times.
  • In those days, Karnataka was the Princely state of Mysore & Tamil Nadu was called as Madras Presidency.
  • Two important agreements over the use of water in the Cauvery river was signed between these two parties in 1892 & 1924.
  • This last agreement of 1924 lapsed in the year 1974 & from that time major tensions started to emerge between these two states.
  • What Karnataka has to say – Karnataka as a state doesn’t get the same benefit of the Cauvery river in the same way as the Tamil Nadu gets. Hence proper changes should be drawn up in the existing pattern of the 1924 agreement.
  • What Tamil Nadu has to say – Tamil Nadu has developed around 3,000,000 acres of land based on the availability of the water. If some changes are brought in the availability of the water millions of farmers in Tamil Nadu will be starved to death. Tamil Nadu, being the lower-riperian state, charges that Karnataka has built new dams and expanded the agricultural areas irrigated by the available water, thus affecting the water-supply down-stream. As a result, there has been a dispute and tension between these two states over the division of water.
  • In short Tamil, Nadu wanted to maintain status quo over its share of water while Karnataka wanted to tap most of the water flowing from its territory.
  • One farmers association from Tamil Nadu moved to Supreme Court so that a tribunal can be formed on the river dispute. (The talks between the State were going on but yielded no result).
  • Finally on the order of Supreme Court a 3 member tribunal was formed in 1990 headquarterd at New Delhi & it was headed by Justice Chittatosh Mookerjee.
  • Demands of the state before the tribunal –
  • a) Karnataka - claimed 465 billion ft³ (13 km³) as its share b) Kerala - claimed 99.8 billion ft³ (2.83 km³) as its share c) Puducherry - claimed 9.3 billion ft³ (0.3 km³) d) Tamil Nadu – claimed the flows should be ensured in accordance with the terms of the agreements of 1892 and 1924 (ie., 566 billion ft³ (16 km³) for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry; 177 billion ft³ (5 km³) for Karnataka and 5 billion ft³ (0.1 km³) for Kerala).
  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was constituted by the Government of India on 2nd June 1990 to adjudicate the water dispute regarding inter-state river Cauvery and the river valley thereof.
  • The Tribunal, comprising chairman Justice N.P. Singh and members N.S. Rao and Sudhir Narain, was set up in 1990 and its final award came in 2007.
About monitoring of the implementation of Interim order of CWDT
  • Under the provisions of Section 6A of the ISWD Act, 1956, the Central Government has notified a Scheme called Cauvery Water (implementation of the Order of 1991 and all subsequent Related Orders of the Tribunal) Scheme, 1998, consisting of Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC).
  • The Cauvery River Authority consists of the Prime Minister as Chairperson and Chief Ministers of the basin States as members.
  • The Monitoring Committee consists of Secretary, MOWR as Chairperson, Chief Secretaries and Chief Engineers of the basin States as Members and Chairman, Central Water Commission as Member.
  • The Authority is required to give effect to the implementation of the Interim Order dated 25th June 1991 of the Tribunal and its related subsequent orders. So far CRA has held 6 meetings and CMC has held 25 meetings. 25th meeting of CMC was held on 24.08.2010.
  • The CWDT was constituted on June 2, 1990.
  • By an interim award issued on June 25, 1991, it directed Karnataka to release 205 tmcft each year to Tamil Nadu. Of this quantum, Tamil Nadu was to release 6 tmcft to Puducherry.
  • The Cauvery River Authority was constituted in 1998 to ensure proper implementation of the interim award.
  • Article 262 of the India constitution states that
  • (1) Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, in any inter-State river or river valley. (2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may, by law, provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause (1)”
  • In short, it means that SC can’t interfere in the water disputes. But as no such law has been made by Parliament SC can still direct the Parliament to create Tribunal.
  • After holding sittings for more than 500 days, over 17 years, the tribunal gave its final award in February 2007.
  • Here tmcft stands for Thousand Million Cubic Feet. Thousand million cubic feet. Unit of volume which means total water released.
  • Here Cusecs stands for Cubic feet per second. Unit of flow which means the water flow released continuously.
  • For Tamil Nadu, the tribunal recommended 419 tmcft (against the demand for 562 tmcft); Karnataka 270 tmcft (465 tmcft); Kerala 30 tmcft; and Puducherry 7 tmcft.
  • The actual release of water by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu will be 192 tmcft a year. From it, Tamil Nadu will release 7 tmcft to Puducherry.
  • In addition, CWDT reserved some quantity of water for (i)environmental protection and (ii) inevitable escapages into the sea as under:
  • i) Quantity reserved for environmental protection – 10 tmcft ii) Quantity determined for inevitable escapages into the sea – 4 tmcft.
  • The following inter-State contact points are identified for monitoring the water deliveries:
Sr. No. Entity Description
1. Between Kerala and Karnataka Kabini reservoir site
2. Between Kerala and Tamil Nadu
a) For Bhavani subbasin
b) For Pambar subbasin
a) Chavadiyoor G.D. site
b) Amaravathy reservoir site
3. Between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Billigundulu G.D. site/any other site on common border
4. Between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Seven contact points as already in operation

What is the reaction to the final award of the Tribunal?

Actually, Tamil Nadu points out that it gets only a little more from Karnataka (217- 7 = 210 TMC) than what it was awardedby the interim order in 1991 (205 TMC) but the government and the people of the state have largely hailed the February 5 final order of the Tribunal, calling it fair and equitable. Pondicherry has also welcomed the Tribunal's final award and the union minister for water resources Saifuddin Soz (of that time) has also maintained that all the states will have to agree tothe verdict of the Tribunal.
Karnataka, on the other hand, feels short-changed as it feels that it has emerged even worse-off than what the interim order awarded it, which had led to massive protests in the state. And since the water needs of the state have grown over the years, there is an economic and therefore a political cost of the award, and expectedly the Karnataka government has said it will file a revision petition within the stipulated 90 days before the tribunal seeking a review of the order, terming it as "shocking" and "unacceptable". There have been sporadic protests against the award as well.
  • The final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) notified by the Centre in 2013 has settled the definition of a normal year, water year and irrigation season which has been a bone of contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • A “normal year” shall mean a year in which the total yield of the Cauvery basin is 740 tmcft.
  • A “water year” shall mean a year commencing on June 1 and ending on May 31.
  • The “irrigation season” shall mean the season beginning on June 1 and ending on January 31 of the next year.
  • The implementation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT), 2007, the Centre notified a temporary Cauvery Water (Implementation of the Order of 2007) Scheme, 2013.
  • Under the Scheme, the Ministry of Water Resources has notified the formation of a Supervisory Committee headed by the Water Resources Secretary with Chief Secretaries of the Cauvery basin states (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala) as members. The Chairman of the Central Water Commission shall also be a member, while the Chief Engineer of the CWC will be the Member-Secretary.
  • This scheme is a “purely temporary measure” until a permanent Scheme namely the Cauvery Management Board as recommended by the Cauvery tribunal order of February 5, 2007, is considered and constituted.
  • With the notification of the final award in February, 2013, the Cauvery River Authority, headed by the Prime Minister and the Cauvery Monitoring Committee chaired by the Water Resources Secretary, no longer exist.
  • The role of the Committee shall be to give effect to the implementation of the CWDT award. In case of any “difficulty” the Chairman of the Committee and, if necessary, any of the parties may apply to the Supreme Court for appropriate directions with notices to other States. The panel will be headquartered in New Delhi.
  • The notification of the ‘Scheme’ and the formation of the ‘Supervisory Committee’ is as per the orders of the apex court, which, in its interim order on May 10, 2013, directed the Centre “to constitute a Supervisory Committee for implementation of the final order of the CWDT dated February 5, 2007, as notified on February 19, 2013.”
  • Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was without Chairman from April, 2012 as Justice N. P. Shah resigned from the post of Chairman on health grounds. Justice Singh was appointed a few days before his superannuation as a Supreme Court judge in December 1996.
  • The Centre will soon appoint Justice B.S. Chauhan, a Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chairman of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal to take up pending applications.
  • Cauvery River originates from Western Ghats (from a place at Talakaveri, Kodagu in Western Ghats).
  • It’s an eastward flowing river.
  • Areas through which it passes before entering Bay of Bengal:- Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry.
  • Total Length – 800 km. (320 km in Karnataka, 416 km in Tamil Nadu and 64 km lies in the boundary between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • Area of Cauvery Basin – 81,155 km2 (i.e. it occupies around 24.7% of the total geographic area of the country.
  • Divisions of the basin – a) the Western Ghats Area b) The Plateau of Mysore c) Delta.
  • Soils of the basin – The principal soil types found in the basin are black soils, red soils, laterites, alluvial soils, forest soils, and mixed soils. Red soils occupy large areas in the basin. Alluvial soils are found in the delta areas. The cultivable area of the basin is about 58,000 km2 which is about three percent of the cultivable area of the country.
  • Drainage Area – 1) Tamil Nadu – 43,867 km2 2) Karnataka – 34,273 km2 3) Kerala –2,866 km2 4) Pondicherry –149 km2
  • Major tributaries – The important tributaries joining Cauvery in the Coorg district are the Kakkabe, the Kadanur and the Kummahole.Cauvery then enters the Mysore district where important tributaries joining the river from the left are the Harangi, theHemavathi, the Shimsha and the Arkavathi. The tributaries joining it from the right are the Lakshmanathirtha, theKabbani, and the Survanavathi.Further down, the river enters Tamil Nadu state where the many tributaries, namely, theBhavani, the Noyil, and the Amravathi join it.
  • Major projects – Krishnaraja sagar dam, Nugu, Mettur and Grand Anicut projects
  • Mythology – The Cauvery River, also known as Dakshin Ganga or 'Ganga of South', is one of the holy rivers of South India.
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