Cracking the Cauvery code: What's the water sharing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu all about

Will it bring cheers to Tamil Nadu ryots or not? Fingers crossed as SC to pronounce its verdict on decades-old water dispute today.

Published: 16th February 2018 05:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th February 2018 02:34 PM   |  A+A-

File image of river Cauvery.

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: All eyes will be on the Supreme Court on Friday which will pronounce its decision over the decades-old Cauvery water dispute. The verdict will come on appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala against the final award of the Cauvery Water Tribunal in 2007 on the allocation of water to them.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and including Justices Amitava Roy and Khanwilkar will pronounce the verdict on February 16, which was reserved by them in September last year.

The water sharing issue has been a contentious issue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as the water is not only a source of drinking water, but is used for agricultural purposes by farmers of both the states.
The apex court has been hearing cross-petitions by both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, following the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award.

Before reserving the judgment, the court had pulled up the Centre for not implementing the final award of the tribunal and questioned the reluctance to set up a Cauvery Management Board.
The court’s remark came during the hearing of a plea, filed in 2016 by a citizens’ group led by Kiran Mazumdar Shaw seeking the court’s intervention for supply of drinking water to the residents of Bengaluru and surrounding districts.

Last year, the apex court had ordered Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of the Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu everyday as an interim measure till the appeals are finally decided by it.
The dispute dates back to the British era in 1911, when the princely state of Mysore agreed to seek the permission of the Madras Presidency before undertaking any irrigation projects on the river. The dispute began after the reorganisation of states in 1956, with Karnataka claiming that an agreement reached in 1924 was valid for 50 years.

The Tribunal was set up in 1991 and in 2007, it had ordered the allocation of the Cauvery water to the four states of Cauvery basin and allocated 419 tmc ft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, 270 tmc ft to Karnataka, 30 tmc ft to Kerala and 7 tmc ft of to Puducherry, leading to protests from both sides and filing of review petitions.

The Cauvery originates in Kodagu in Karnataka, but more than 50 per cent of the river basin is in Tamil Nadu, with small tributaries also flowing into Kerala and Puducherry. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the two main parties to the river dispute.

Flood Of Litigation

The dispute over the Cauvery water sharing has been dragging on for many decades since the river was not only a source of drinking water, but also used for agricultural purposes. Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry are also lower riparian States involved in this dispute.

15,000 policemen to be deployed in Bengaluru on Friday. The SC is likely to take up the case at 10.30 am. Around the same time, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah will be presenting State budget.

What to expect

Political analyst Tharasu Shyam gives an idea of what we can expect today

  • A finality of litigation over Cauvery water dispute

  • There is no question of the verdict going against any State as SC is acting as a mediator  

  • The Supreme Court is most likely to give its directive on the formation of Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulatory Authority to implement the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. This is Tamil Nadu’s long standing demand. This has been delayed by the Centre even after it was notified in the Union Gazette

  • The SC most probably will spell out its ruling on the distress-sharing formula for all Cauvery riparian States

  • Some restrictions on increasing the cultivable areas under Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

  • The quantum of Cauvery water that could be allocated for drinking water purposes

  • The verdict may help Tamil Nadu from the next agricultural season

  • The SC may censure both States for not adopting water management practices suitable to the present times

  • Even after the SC verdict, whether the government in Karnataka will implement it is a big question as it is election year there

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