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Cauvery dispute and its solutions


Cauvery is a river which originates at Talakaveri, Kodagu in Karnataka and flows generally through Karnatka and Tamil Nadu. The Cauvery dispute date back to 19th century when the modern Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were the parts of Mysore state and Madras presidency respectively. In the later years of 19th century both the state of Mysore and Madras were under British rule for a short period of time when they planned to utilize the river water for irrigation purpose but due to several famines during the period the plans could not be implemented. Soon, the Mysore state came under the power of kings and they revived the plan to utilize the Cauvery water for irrigation and drinking which were opposed by then Madras presidency and the matter was brought to British government. Subsequently an agreement was reached on the principles of 'modus vivendi' which enabled the Mysore state to go with irrigation projects and Madras were given practical security against injury to interest in the year of 1892.

The matter came again in limelight when in the year of 1910 the king of Mysore Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodyar and Captain Dawes as a chief engineer came with a plan to construct a dam over the river which was opposed by Madras and finally an agreement was reached in the year of 1924 which was valid for 50 years.

India became independent in 1947 and states were reorganized in 1956. After state reorganization Kerala and Puduchery came into the fray of Cauvery dispute as a major tributary of Cauvery, Kabini originates in Kerala and the Karaikal region of puducherry falling under the tail of the river.

As the 1924's agreement was about to come to an end in 1974, all the party and Government of India started negotiating for sharing of river between the states in 1960 which continued for decades without reaching any outcome. Finally, in 1990 an inter-state water tribunal was set up (Cauvery water dispute tribunal) on sharing the water system among the states falling under its basin. The tribunal passed an interim order in 1991 and final order came in 2007 upon sharing the water among the states.

In years when the rain is normal or above normal there is no quarrel as all the party receive the amount they require for their agricultural or other purposes but it becomes a matter of contention when the rain is deficient.

The tribunal has awarded Tamil Nadu - 419 TMC, Karnatka - 270 TMC, Kerala - 30 TMC and Puducherry - 7 TMC during the normal rain years and when the availability of water is less or during the deficient rain years the share of states is reduced proportionally.

Being in upper riparian part of the river Karnataka does not release the water during deficient year as per the tribunal's arrangement and Tamil Nadu has to go to supreme court for it's share which is the major reason of dispute. Though the situation can be handled sagaciously the government of both states give it a political colour and very often it turns into violent protest in both the states causing disastrous loss of life and material to the society at both end.

The Cauvery river basin consists of 81,155 square kilometre from which Karnataka holds 34,273 square kilometre and Tamil Nadu 43,856 square kilometre and rest falls in Kerala and Puducherry. The farmers in both the state are dependent on the water of river and any mismanagement in water availability make their life miserable because of their dependence of agriculture.

As we already know that the situation becomes grave only during the deficient rain years both the states need to understand the necessity of each other. We also need to develop a system through which early forecasting can be made about the rain and information provided to farmer so that they will plan the cropping pattern according to the water availability.

It is the time every state need to start working on water harvesting so that the water stored can be used during the scarcity. Once we have several resource for anything our dependence on a particular resource become lesser and it can help us in the situations like Cauvery dispute.

- Mani Kant Jha