The Cauvery dispute has escalated to Delhi, with the directive to release 5,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu. The BJP accuses the Congress government in Karnataka of releasing water to aid the DMK, a partner in the newly formed INDIA bloc, in anticipation of the Lok Sabha elections. The Cauvery water conflict has now reached the national stage, with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy DK Shivakumar meeting Union ministers and MPs from all parties in Delhi on September 20.
Siddaramaiah has declared that they will seek a stay on the order from the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) in the Supreme Court. The CWMA recently ordered Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu, causing significant concern among farmers in Karnataka’s Cauvery basin. Siddaramaiah has informed the Centre that this is practically impossible.
Origin of dispute the conflict between the two states dates back to the 19th century when Madras was under British rule and Mysore was ruled by its Maharaja. Two agreements were signed between Madras and Mysore in 1892 and 1924. According to The Deccan Herald, the 1892 agreement required Mysore to obtain consent from Madras for any construction activity. The dispute began when Mysore proposed to build the Kannambadi dam, now known as the KRS dam. In 1990, the Centre established the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) to resolve disputes between Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Puducherry regarding water-sharing capacities. In 2018, the Supreme Court allocated 419 thousand million cubic feet of the total 740 TMC water of the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu. Karnataka was allocated a total of 270 TMC. Kerala received 30 TMC, Puducherry got 7 TMC, and 10 TMC was reserved for environmental protection.
A poor monsoon year indicates a water shortage in Karnataka. Reports suggest that between June 1 and August 17, Karnataka received 499.4 mm of rainfall compared to the normal of 587.9 mm. In August, the state recorded another significant deficit. Although Tamil Nadu received normal rainfall during this period, farmers there depend on Cauvery’s water for irrigation, as stated by The Business Standard. The long-standing dispute resurfaces whenever there is a deficit Southwest Monsoon in the region. Karnataka farmers are protesting against releasing water due to a Southwest Monsoon deficit. According to Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), there needs to be a roadmap for all rivers in the country for all seasons. “As far as Cauvery is concerned, there should be a proper ‘distress formula’ for when there is a bad monsoon. The tribunal has established principles for normal years but there is no guidance for years when monsoon is deficit,”.
Politics BJP leaders and former Karnataka chief ministers HD Kumaraswamy and Basavaraj Bommai have criticised the state government and accused it of betraying people for political reasons. The BJP alleges that the Congress government is releasing water to assist Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), an ally in the newly-formed Opposition block INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
“If the state government releases Cauvery water just because they [DMK] are part of INDIA, farmers from Mandya and Mysuru and residents of Bengaluru will face a shortage of drinking water in the coming days,” Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Shobha Karandlaje.