RSTV- The Big Picture : Cauvery : Dousing The Fire

  • IASbaba
  • March 10, 2018
  • 0
The Big Picture- RSTV
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Cauvery: Dousing The Fire


TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Inter-State Water Dispute

Cauvery River:

  • Originates in Karnataka
  • Goes on to flow through Tamil Nadu, before meeting the Bay of Bengal. The 765-km-long river cuts across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Verdict of the SC:

  • The Supreme Court pronounced that Karnataka be given additional 14.75 TMC of the river water while 177.25 TMC of water be released for Tamil Nadu.
  • The allocation of Karnataka which used to be 270 TMC has been increased to 284.75 TMC

Point of contention – The factor called ‘groundwater’

The court decided to reduce Tamil Nadu’s share by 14.7 thousand million cubic feet – from 192 thousand million cubic feet to 177.2 thousand million cubic feet – citing that the tribunal had not taken into account that the state has a minimum 10 thousand million cubic feet of available groundwater that can be used for irrigation.

  • Groundwater levels have dropped because of a steady rise in the exploitation of groundwater resources.
  • Salinity of groundwater in some of the districts is excessive
  • With the river dry for most of the year, seawater has been invading the canals in the basin and seeping into groundwater resources.

Way Forward:

SC Recommendation: Speedy establishment of Cauvery Water Management Board which should include eminent water technologists and agriculture specialists in the management board to help

  • Ensure greater economy and equity in the sharing of the Cauvery water
  • Look into the water efficiency measures involving recycling of water

Demand management: There is a need for the basin states to reduce the demand for water by adopting the following –

  • Cropping patterns which require less water
  • Drip irrigation and other water-saving techniques, paying attention to crops which are in demand in the market and which can enhance the income of farmers per unit of water.

Supply augmentation: Tamil Nadu should

  • Make rainwater harvesting mandatory as it is a rain shadow region and water becomes available largely during the north east monsoon period. There is a large scope for water harvesting and storage.
  • Set up a Water Security Board in order to derive maximum benefits

Urban Planning: Since urbanization has altered both quantity and quality of our water resources, it is important that proper urban and water planning are taken into consideration.


Appeals were filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala against the 2007 order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) on sharing of water.

  • The dispute dates back to the 1970s and has its origin in two agreements signed between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and the Princely State of Mysore in 1892 and 1924, (It was decided to divide the river water between the two states), which lapsed in 1974.
  • Tamil Nadu then asked the Congress-ruled government at the Centre to form a tribunal to look into the diversion of water and ensure that it gets its due share. When Centre did not pay heed to Tamil Nadu demand, it approached the Supreme Court, which, in May 1990, ordered the creation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • In 1991, the tribunal passed an interim award ordering Karnataka to release 205 tmc ft (thousand million cubic feet) of water every year to Tamil Nadu. This prompted strong and in some places, violent protests in Karnataka, which delayed the release of water.
  • For the next 14 years, both sides continued to spar over water-sharing and the legal battle continued, until the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal announced its final award in 2007. The order from the tribunal meant that Karnataka would have to release 192 tmc ft of water from its catchment to Tamil Nadu every year. However, the tribunal failed to comprehensively and authoritatively state how the water was to be shared in “distress years”, when the flow in the Cauvery was deficient owing to inadequate rainfall.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Do you think that the next World War will be over water? Discuss
  2. ‘Rivers as a mechanistic producer of water, not as a dynamic life-giving system that is responsive to local and global triggers of use and abuse’. Comment.

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