It is a demand that has been pressed upon by stakeholders in Tamil Nadu for the last five years but was put in abeyance by the Centre perhaps for political considerations. But on Friday, when the Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC) indicated that the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, passed in 2007, “shall” be notified by month-end, it came like music to ears of farmers as well as the political class.
In many ways, it is also seen as a victory for Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who, even when she was the Leader of the Opposition when the order was passed, pressed for its notification.
However, it has still not addressed certain basic issues that cropped up after the final directions. Most important among them is sharing of water during distress years, like the current one where farmers have been put to great difficulty.
In its final orders that came 16 years after the interim award in 1991, the CWDT pegged the total availability in the Cauvery basin at 740 tmcft. It gave Karnataka 270 tmcft, Tamil Nadu 419, Kerala 30 and Puducherry 7. A small allocation was also made for environment protection.
While this might be okay during normal years, the problem arises during distress years where inflows are below normal, like the current year. A former senior official, who was in the thick of the issue during the arguments in the run up to the final award, told Express that Tamil Nadu always pressed for a comprehensive formula of distress-sharing.
The award says that the states have to share water proportionately in case of low inflows. “This means we will get about 57 per cent even in the reduced quantity in case of a poor monsoon,” he says. The official says that during several meetings, questions on the dependability of this formula cropped up. “Karnataka officials were of the view that it would adversely affect them during poor inflows as the water levels are calculated for the whole year (June to May) and not on seasonal basis,” he recalls.
This means, if one monsoon was better than the other, the beneficiary of the better monsoon would be at an advantage. Given that much of the water in the Cauvery network came from the Southwest monsoon, Karnataka felt it would be at a disadvantage.
“This could lead to the same situation we have now where states may refuse to adhere to the award claiming it might affect their farmers adversely. As a lower riparian state, we would again be at the receiving end,” he points out.