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India’s inter-state water war

  • Published at 06:01 pm September 10th, 2016
India’s inter-state water war

Most parts of Karnataka, especially Bengaluru and Mysuru, shut down on Friday in response to the State-wide bandh called in protest against the Supreme Court order to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. 

According to latest reports, thousands have been stranded at the city’s international airport. The bandh has, especially, hit Bengaluru with the state government extending its tacit support to the protesters.

Though chief minister Siddaramaiah said that the government will brook no violence by protesters, city police sources admitted the force is weary given the consecutive protests and festival duty deployment.  “The state government has resolved not to oppose the bandh. Schools and colleges will be closed and almost all government offices are likely to shut down as attendance is expected to be thin,” Siddaramaiah told reporters on Thursday .

Around 5,000 protesters took to the streets of Bangalore, some burning tyres and effigies of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram. The key opposition parties - BJP and JD(S) - have backed the bandh call.


Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing dispute:

Core of the issue

Karnataka claims that the British-era agreement was not correct as it did not get its due share of water. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu believes that it needs the water to sustain extensive farming that has increased because of Karnataka’s commitment to providing sufficient water.

Karnataka wants to triple its water share from the river, that originates from Kodagu and flows through Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, which means there Tamil Nadu’s portion will reduce.

History of the dispute

Historically, the dispute over sharing Cauvery waters dates back to the British era. The dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing Cauvery neared a solution when the two warring sides, Mysore princely state and Madras Presidency reached an agreement in 1924.

Mysore was permitted to build a dam at Kannambadi village to trap 44.8 thousand million cubic feet of water. The agreement was to be valid for 50 years and a review thereafter was part of the agreement.

Not willing to accept the agreement, the two states took the dispute to the Supreme Court after Independence on several occasions but the matter could not be resolved.

Arbitration attempts

Mysore, named Karnataka after independence, asked Tamil Nadu seeking permission to make changes to various clauses after 12 years of independence. But Tamil Nadu refused to do so, saying they can be addressed only when the agreement runs out in 1974.

In the 1970s, Cauvery Fact Finding Committee found that Tamil Nadu’s irrigated lands had grown from an area of 1,440,000 acres to 2,580,000 acres while Karnataka’s irrigated area stood at 680,000 acres, resulting in an increased demand of water for Tamil Nadu.

A study conducted by the central government in 1972 said the utilisation of water from Cauvery in Tamil Nadu was 489tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) against Karnataka’s 177tmcft.

Cauvery Water Tribunal

As both states refused to agree through talks, the Centre constituted the Cauvery Water Tribunal in 1990. After hearing both sides for years, the tribunal in its final award in 2007 gave 419tmcft for Tamil Nadu and 270tmcft for Karnataka. Kerala was awarded 30tmcft and Pondicherry 7tmcft.

Both governments challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.

Present agitation

The dispute escalates when monsoon fails, as there is lesser water to share. And this year, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have received less than normal rainfall during the monsoon. Karnataka says it cannot release water to TN for agriculture as it needs it for drinking water purposes.

Source: Hindustan Times

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