Saturday, December 09, 2023
  1. You Are At:
  2. English News
  3. Explainers
  4. EXPLAINED: What is Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu?

EXPLAINED: What is Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu?

Cauvery water dispute: Cauvery is an interstate basin that originates in Karnataka and passes through Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry before draining into the Bay of Bengal. The total watershed of the Kaveri basin is 81,155 sq km, of which the river’s catchment area is about 34,273 sq km in Karnataka.

Sheenu Sharma Written By: Sheenu Sharma @20sheenu Bengaluru Updated on: September 30, 2023 12:47 IST
Cauvery water Dispute, Cauvery Dispute, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, cauvery row, Cauvery River water Disp
Image Source : INDIA TV Cauvery River water dispute

Cauvery water dispute: The Cauvery River water dispute or crisis has once again surfaced in Karnataka. On Thursday (September 28), the meeting of Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)  upheld the decision of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC), and directed Karnataka to release around 3,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day, until October 15 (Sunday).

The state government is facing huge challenge of handling a series of protests and bandhs everywhere. Recent activities, including a Bengaluru Bandh on Tuesday (September 26), and a statewide Karnataka Bandh on Friday (September 29), were triggered by CWMA's directive to Karnataka. 

This directive has rekindled a deeply rooted tussle that has historically evoked responses from both states.

Protests/ Bandh in Karnataka:

The recent escalations in protests can be attributed to abnormal monsoon patterns in Karnataka, resulting in reduced rainfall in the Cauvery River region. This circumstance made it challenging for Karnataka to meet the water allocation mandated by the Supreme Court on September 18,  instructing the release of 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for 15 days.

Consequently, protests, bandhs, and political clashes ensued, adding a political dimension to the issue.

What's the actual reason of dispute?

The geographical origin of the Cauvery River in Karnataka forms a critical aspect of the dispute, as it enables Karnataka to regulate the water flow into Tamil Nadu. At its core, the disagreement revolves around the allocation of water from the river, encompassing distribution during regular years, sharing during drought years, and the construction of reservoirs and dams along its course.

Both states are demanding for a larger share of the river's water as a resource to sustain their growing populations and agricultural needs, thus igniting this ongoing struggle. Karnataka government is also challenged with handling the water crisis in the state. With the release of water to Tamil Nadu, it is almost certain that the standing crops which require 79 TMC of water will not get it.

The fulfillment of drinking water needs of Bengaluru city throughout the summer is also going to be another challenge. The requirement of the state for drinking water up to June 2024 is about 33 TMC. 

Tamil Nadu had demanded for the release of 12,500 cusecs of water. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar said that the rains received in August and September were the lowest in 125 years.

With BJP and JD (S) joining hands and supporting the bandh, protest and stirs in the state, the Congress government which had dream run till date will also have to ensure law, order and peace in the state, especially in capital city of Bengaluru.

Supreme Court Verdict in the year 2018:

In 2018, the conflict appeared to approach resolution when the Supreme Court (SC) set water allocation limits for both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, deviating from the 2007 rules stipulated by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).

Karnataka was directed to allow 177.25 thousand million cubic feet of Cauvery water to flow into Tamil Nadu annually, altering the previously agreed-upon allocation. Despite this attempt to provide clarity, the decision did not fully appease either party, triggering further protests and clashes.

Political involvement:

Presently, the ruling Congress party in Karnataka and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu, with the Congress as a junior partner, are crucial constituents of the newly formed I.N.D.I.A bloc. Any discontent with the water-sharing arrangement could potentially undermine these political entities.

Concurrently, the BJP in Karnataka and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu see this as an opportunity to regain political ground, further entangling the already complex water dispute in a web of a political slugfest.

In his letter to PM Modi, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda had stated that Karnataka state requires 112 TMC of water. “Tamil Nadu’s demand for more than 40 TMC of water is gross injustice. The demands are against humanity and natural justice,” he said.

The Supreme Court had given the final verdict on the Cauvery dispute on June 16, 2018. It earmarked 284.57 TMC for Karnataka, 404 TMC for Tamil Nadu, 10 TMC for Puducherry, and 10 TMC for Kerala.

KPCC Spokesperson KP Laxman said that it was estimated that a total of 740 TMC of water is generated in the Cauvery basin. It is decided that Karnataka should release 177 TMC of water however there is no rule regarding the distress period. “During droughts, blind decisions are made,” he said.

He said that according to the Irrigation Act 6 (a), the central government should have discussed the matter in the Lok Sabha and it should have talked about the distribution of water but this was not done.

However, as the crisis deepens with the passage of time, the Cauvery crisis is only expected to get worse. The issue has come as a spoiler for the Congress government in Karnataka, which was having a dream run following the implementation of guarantee schemes.

History of Cauvery River/ Know more about water dispute:

  1. Coursing through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before eventually merging into the Bay of Bengal, the Cauvery is a significant river in southern India. The origin of the dispute traces back to the late 1800s, when agreements were reached between the princely state of Mysore (now part of Karnataka) and the Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu).
  2. The Cauvery/Kaveri is an interstate basin that originates in Karnataka and passes through Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry before draining into the Bay of Bengal. The total watershed of the Kaveri basin is 81,155 sq km, of which the river’s catchment area is about 34,273 sq km in Karnataka, 2,866 sq km in Kerala and the remaining 44,016 sq km in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
  3. The Harangi and Hemavati dams in Karnataka have been constructed on the Harangi and Hemavati rivers which are tributaries of the rivers Kaveri. The Krishna Raja Sagar Dam has been constructed downstream of these two dams on the main Kaveri River in Karnataka. The Kabini Reservoir in Karnataka is constructed on the Kabini River, a tributary of the Kaveri River, which joins the Krishna Sagar Reservoir. The Mettur Dam has been constructed across the mainstream of Kaveri in Tamil Nadu. The Central Water Commission has established two G&D sites namely Kollegal and Billigundlu on the main Kaveri River between the confluence of Kabini and Mettur dam with Kaveri. The Billigundlu G&D site is about 60 km below the Mettur Dam where the Kaveri River forms the border with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  4. The Government of India constituted the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) on June 2, 1990, to adjudicate the water dispute between the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry with respect to the inter-state Cauvery water and river basin.
  5. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) passed an interim order on June 25, 1991 directing the State of Karnataka to release water from its reservoir in Karnataka so that in a water year (1 June 205 million cubic feet (TalMC) of water to the Mettur reservoir in Tamil Nadu, either monthly or as a weekly assessment, between May 2016 to May 31.
  6. Water is to be released in four weeks in four equal installments with reference to a particular month. If it is not possible to release the required quantity of water in any week, the said shortfall will be released in the subsequent week. 6 TMC of water will be given by the State of Tamil Nadu in a regulated manner to the Karaikal region of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
  7. Having considered the said Order, the President of India, under clause (1) of Article 143 of the Constitution of India, on July 27, 1991, to consider and report on the following Referred to the Supreme Court of India- 1. whether the order of this Tribunal includes report and award within the meaning of section 5(2) of the Act; And 2. whether the order of this Tribunal is required to be published by the Central Government to give effect to it;
  8. The Supreme Court on November 22, 1991 opined on the above questions inter alia that- 1. The order of the Tribunal dated the 25th June, 1991 contains the report and award within the meaning of section 5(2) of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 2. Therefore, in order to give effect to the said Order, it is required to be published by the Central Government in the Official Gazette under section 6 of this Act”;
  9. In view thereof, dated the 10th December, 1991 to give effect to the interim order of the CWDT dated 25th June, 1991 and to be made binding on and to be given effect to by the various parties to this dispute Notified in the Gazette of India under section 6 of the ISRWD Act, 1956 and required to be made effective by them.
  10. On May 14, 1992, the Government of Tamil Nadu filed Original Case No. 1 of 1992 in the Supreme Court in which they inter alia sought to give effect to the decisions of this Tribunal and to issue notification in the Official Gazette. prayed for passing the necessary degree of ordinance directing the Union Government to frame a scheme making provision for all necessary matters. Original Case No. 1/92 came up for hearing on 9th April, 1997 before the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. At the behest of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General of India made a statement in the Court on 9th April, 1997 that the Union of India agreed to prepare a scheme under Section 6A of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 for effective implementation of the Interim Award of this Tribunal . After hearing on 9th April, 1997, when the Supreme Court directed the Central Government to prepare a plan, the Supreme Court on 20th August, 1997, 30th September, 1997, 11th November, 1997, 6th January, 1998, 31st March, 1998, Regular hearings were held on 28 April 1998 and 21 July 1998. In view of the above, under the provisions of section 6A of the ISRWD Act, 1956, the Central Government notified a scheme called the Cauvery Water (Implementation of Interim Orders of 1991 and all subsequent Tribunal Orders) Scheme, 1998. It includes Cauvery Water Authority (CRA) and Monitoring Committee (CMC). The Cauvery River Authority is headed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister and has the Chief Ministers of the basin states as members. The Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources is the Secretary of this Authority. The Monitoring Committee has Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources as Chairman and Chief Secretaries and Chief Ministers of Basin States as members.

ALSO READ: Cauvery water: Karnataka govt to file review petition before Supreme Court challenging CWMA order

ALSO READ: Karnataka bandh: 44 flights cancelled, chaos at Bengaluru airport amid shutdown over Cauvery water

Read all the Breaking News Live on and Get Latest English News & Updates from Explainers