The Parched Tiger: India’s Internal Water Dispute

Courtesy of Times of India, an article on India’s internal water tensions as a water shortage in India’s Cauvery River Basin has pitted the state of Karnataka against its southern neighbor, Tamil Nadu:

Totally rejecting the formula suggested by Cauvery River Authority (CRA) headed by Prime minister Manmohan Singh on water sharing, Karnataka has said the distress in the state and Tamil Naducan be confirmed only through field visit by an expert team and not through any ad hoc decision.

In a bid to resolve the row over Cauvery river water-sharing between two states, Singh on Wednesday asked Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs every day between Sep 20 and Oct 15 to Tamil Nadu. However, the meeting miserably failed after both states expressing unhappiness over the decision.

While chief minister Jagadish Shettar walked out of the meeting after registering a protest over the ruling, while Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said her state would approach the Supreme Court to get its due. “The obligation to release 10,000 cusecs per day upto 20.09.2012 will be adhered to,” he said.

Following are the arguments of Karnataka expressing why water cannot be released:

*Further releases beyond Sept 20 will sacrifice the basic drinking water requirements and protection of standing crops of farmers of Karnataka. This will cause irreparable injury to the State of Karnataka

*Subsequent to the failure of the rainfall to an extent of 43% in the basin, the inflows into our reservoirs have drastically dwindled resulting in a shortage of 48% till the end of August 2012.

*Against the normal flow of about 217 tmc, the flow into our reservoirs is only 102 tmc till the end of August.

*Flows into KRS (Krishna Raja Sagar) stem is curtailed to about 55% and that in Kabini stem to 34% of the normal at the end of August, 2012 which reflects the severity of the deficit monsoon. This year is the worst affected year in the last 40 years in terms of rainfall.

*The total inflow into Karnataka reservoirs upto 19.09.2012 is about 144 tmc as against 242 tmc in a normal year, representing a shortage of about 40%. As of now, the live storage in the reservoirs of Karnataka is about 76.07 tmc.

* Further water requirement for drinking water and irrigated crops in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka is estimated to be about 157 tmc after effecting severe economy measures in water uses.

*The total requirement of Bangalore city in 2025 is estimated to be 30 tmc. Presently, the supply is only about 19 tmc, which has caused severe shortage in many parts of Bangalore city. Any further shortages due to release from Cauvery will create severe water crisis in Bangalore city.

* As on Sept 10, 2012 the storage at Mettur reservoir was 41.70 tmc. As on Sept 19, 2012 the storage at Mettur reservoir is about 47 tmc. This clearly shows that TN has built up the storage. Hence, TN is in a better position today.

*Total storages in Karnataka as on Sept 10, 2012 was 80 tmc and the total storage as on Sept 20 is 76.07 tmc. Therefore, the distress in Karnataka is turning out to be severe compared to Sept 10. Any further releases would worsen the situation in the state. The injury would be of permanent nature.

*Inflow into Karnataka reservoirs as on Sept 10 was in the range of 22,000 cusecs to 29,000 cusecs. However, the inflow has dwindled to 11,300 cusecs today (Sept 20) and it is dwindling day by day.

* The interim order was passed on June 25, 1991 without any investigation and before the pleadings were completed. The interim order survived only “till the final adjudication of the dispute”.

*The foremost task before the present CRA is to resolve sharing of distress based on acceptable and equitable procedure based on ground realities instead of the rigid mathematical system which is not scientific and equitable.

*The CRA should send an Expert Team to gather fact and data on the water requirement for crops, drinking water requirement and total water available in the basin.

*All other contentious issues including the orders of the Tribunal are yet to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court.

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