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Politics flowing over Cauvery River

The sharing of water of the Cauvery River has been the source of a serious conflict between the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The genesis of this conflict rests in two agreements in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and Kingdom of Mysore. The 802-km-long Cauvery River has 44,000 km2 basin area in Tamil Nadu and 32,000 km2 basin area in Karnataka. The inflow from Karnataka is 425 tmcft whereas that from Tamil Nadu is 252 tmcft. Based on the inflow, Karnataka is demanding its due share of water from the river. It states that the pre-independence agreements are invalid and are skewed heavily in the favour of the Madras Presidency, and has demanded a renegotiated settlement based on “equitable sharing of the waters”. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, pleads that it has already developed almost 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of land and as a result, it comes that the existing pattern of usage depends on it very heavily. Any change in this pattern, it says, will adversely affect the livelihood of millions of farmers in the state.

Decades of negotiations between the parties bore no fruit. The Government of India then constituted a tribunal in 1990 to look into the matter. After hearing arguments of all the parties involved for the next 16 years, the tribunal delivered its final verdict on February 5, 2007. In its verdict, the tribunal allocated 419 TMC of water annually to Tamil Nadu and 270 TMC to Karnataka; 30 TMC of Cauvery river water to Kerala and 7 TMC to Puducherry. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu being the major shareholders, Karnataka was ordered to release 192 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu. The dispute, however, did not end there, as all four states decided to file review petitions seeking clarifications and possible renegotiation of the order.

The Supreme Court now has refused the Central government’s request to allow it to frame a Cauvery water sharing scheme three months later, after the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections. Instead, the court voiced suspicion about the Centre’s very resolve to play its part to end the 200-year-old conflict. It directed the Centre to prove its “bona fide” by submitting a draft scheme on May 3. The Centre, which is up against a plea from Tamil Nadu for the contempt of court, agreed to file a draft scheme implementing the court’s February 16 judgement for allocation of Cauvery water among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Now, there is a ray of hope that 120-year-old Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka would come to an end. In a ruling, the Supreme Court has reduced the share of water for Tamil Nadu. All parties in the dispute should accept the verdict since the Supreme Court has delivered the judgement after due considerations of all aspects. The honourable judge heard the arguments from both the sides and only after weighing the pros and cons for justice, the verdict was pronounced. There should not be any dispute over the judgement.

Unfortunately, in our country, disputes over river water share and some other issues are still there between two or more states. Last year the dispute over Cauvery water in the Bengaluru spilled over to streets. Protests by people of Tamil Nadu living in Bengaluru resulted in violence and scuffle. The locals attacked Tamilians’ homes and offices. It is a serious matter! India is one and will remain one. Irrespective of where we are born and where we work and live, we are all Indians. There should not be any discrimination among people.

If you move out of Cauvery dispute, in Northern India, Haryana and Punjab are at loggerhead over the share of Sutlej Yamuna canal water. Till 1966, Haryana was a part of Punjab. I wonder why this water dispute is there and when it will end!

This year too, Chennai is facing water crisis much ahead of rains. If this year, the state fails to get satisfactory rains, it will have to depend on neighbouring states. Chennai always had issues with water, sometimes it is water scarcity and sometimes they are floods and excess of water. This time it has gone worst ever; sometimes nature is too unkind and government too is very inefficient in crisis management. In the recent past, water stagnation and lack of drainage have become a common sight during monsoons in most parts of Chennai. Let’s hope that the restoration plans by authorities take note of the need to revive the natural water bodies and do not yield to other pressures.

Alike laymen, experts are also blaming the construction boom. The fact is that only Cooum and Adyar Rivers are draining the rainwater to the sea. The Buckingham Canal mostly dumps the city rainwater in the Adyar River. The Adyar River passes through the runway of the Chennai airport causing the flooding. The best way to tackle the periodical flooding and water scarcity is to divert the water by creating a weir, deepening the river and creating multiple canals like streets. Unless the water levels in the rivers are kept low by diversions, the rainwater will not drain quickly from the city.

An Indian green body said that the floods in Chennai are an impact of climate change and the “unprecedented deluge” that the city has witnessed is a reminder of increasing frequency of such freak weather events across the Indian subcontinent. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that Chennai could have fared better if it had protected and preserved its natural water bodies and drainage channels. Both problems are related — excessive construction that leads to poor recharge of groundwater aquifers and blocking of natural drainage systems. While Chennai has been struggling to meet its water needs and has been even desalinating seawater at a huge expense, it allowed its aquifers to get depleted, said the experts. CSE’s research shows that Chennai had more than 600 water bodies in the 1980s, but a master plan published in 2008 said that only a fraction of them are in a healthy condition.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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