Interstate River Water Dispute

Karnataka complies with Cauvery Water Directive


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cauvery Water Dispute

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • Karnataka has initiated the release of water from its reservoirs to Tamil Nadu, following the directives of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA).
  • The outflow from the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) Reservoir across the Cauvery River in Mandya district has been escalated.

Also read:

Inter-state Water disputes in India

Increased Outflow Details

  • The current outflow rate into the river is 4,398 cubic feet per second (cusecs), whereas the inflow stands at 2,300 cusecs as of Wednesday.
  • The outflow rate was 2,292 cusecs on Tuesday at 8 p.m. but was increased after 11 p.m.
  • The Kabini Reservoir in Mysuru district also contributes to the outflow, currently standing at 2,000 cusecs.
  • Cumulatively, both reservoirs will release around 6,398 cusecs of water.

Cauvery Water Sharing Dispute: Historical Background

  • 1892 Onset: The water dispute originates from 1892 between British-ruled Madras Presidency and the princely state of Mysore (now Karnataka).
  • 1924 Agreement: A 50-year agreement mediated by the British aimed to ease tensions but set the stage for future conflicts.
  • Post-Independence Battles: Karnataka’s dam constructions in the 1960s-80s triggered Tamil Nadu’s Supreme Court appeal, leading to the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).
  • Interim Measures: The Cauvery River Authority (CRA) implemented interim orders in 1998. Contentious issues persisted despite CWDT’s 2013 award.
  • Final Award: CWDT’s 2013 award allocated water quantities for Tamil Nadu (419 TMC), Karnataka (270 TMC), Kerala (30 TMC), and Puducherry (7 TMC).

Water Sharing Criteria

  • Monthly Schedule: Karnataka, the upper riparian state, must provide Tamil Nadu a specified monthly water quantity.
  • Annual Allocation: In a “normal” year, Karnataka provides 177.25 TMC to Tamil Nadu, with 123.14 TMC during the southwest monsoon.
  • Challenges: Monsoon disagreements arise due to varying rainfall during this period.

Constitutional Provisions for Water Sharing

  • Article 262: Empowers Parliament to address inter-State river disputes; IRWD Act, 1956 enacted under this article.
  • Seventh Schedule: Defines legislative authority over water resources in Entry 17 (State List) and Entry 56 (Union List).

Resolving Cauvery Water Sharing

(A) Supreme Court’s 2018 Verdict:

  • Cauvery as National Asset: The Supreme Court declared Cauvery a “national asset,” upholding inter-State river water equality.
  • Allocation Adjustments: The Court noted deficiencies in CWDT’s assessment, resulting in marginal relief for Karnataka and reduced allocation for Tamil Nadu.
  • Formation of CMB: The Court directed the establishment of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) for effective implementation.

(B) Cauvery Water Management Scheme:

  • CWMA Establishment: Formed to regulate water releases with CWRC’s assistance.
  • Permanent and Technical Bodies: CWMA oversees regulation, while CWRC ensures data collection and award implementation.

Current Status and Future Implications:

  • Ongoing Challenge: The Cauvery water dispute remains a historical and legal challenge.
  • Resource Management: CWMA and CWRC aim to address the dispute through effective water management.
  • Continued Struggle: The dispute underscores the complexity of water sharing in a federal system and the need for equitable solutions.

Tamil Nadu’s Contention

  • CWMA’s Decision: CWMA sought 10,000 cusecs for 15 days from Karnataka, but Karnataka proposed 8,000 cusecs up to August 22.
  • Previous Agreement: Karnataka’s refusal to adhere to the earlier agreement of 15,000 cusecs for 15 days at the CWRC meeting angered Tamil Nadu.
  • Distress-sharing Formula: Tamil Nadu supports distress-sharing, but Karnataka hasn’t embraced it.

Karnataka’s Perspective

  • Rainfall Deficit: Karnataka claims lower rainfall in Cauvery’s catchment areas, including Kerala, leading to reduced inflow.
  • Challenging Situation: Karnataka cites reduced reservoir inflow as the reason for not releasing water this year.
  • Lack of Consistency: Despite endorsing distress-sharing, Karnataka declined to accept the formula.

Future Scenario

  • Tamil Nadu’s Concerns: Mettur reservoir’s critically low storage affects farmers and upcoming kuruvai crop.
  • Water Shortage: Current water availability may last only 10 days, considering dead storage and drinking water needs.
  • Awaiting Supreme Court: The case’s outcome depends on the Supreme Court’s interpretation and decision.
  • Need for Resolution: The need for a mutually acceptable distress-sharing formula is evident.

Ongoing Challenges and Factors Prolonging the Dispute:

  • Erratic Water Levels: Flood-drought cycles, pollution, and groundwater depletion cause unpredictable water levels.
  • Idealistic Calculations: SC’s verdict relies on favorable conditions often misaligned with reality.
  • Dependency and Population: Both states heavily rely on the river, causing conflicting urban and agricultural water needs.
  • Inefficient Water Use: Inefficient irrigation methods lead to low crop productivity per unit of water used.
  • Hydropolitics and Delays: Water disputes are used for political mobilization. Prolonged tribunal processes contribute to delays.

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