In a move that can bring the state in conflict with judiciary, Karnataka Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution asking government to use Cauvery River water only to meet drinking water needs.
The resolution implied that the state cannot comply with the latest Supreme Court direction to release water to Tamil Nadu.
PTI reported that both the Legislative Assembly and the Council adopted the resolution not to provide water for any other purpose except to meet drinking needs, citing ‘acute distress’ and ‘alarmingly low levels’ in its dams.
"An impossible situation wherein it is not possible to comply with a court order has been created," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, as he wrapped up the day-long proceedings in the Assembly, which rallied behind the government cutting across party lines.
The resolution which did not refer to the apex court direction to the state to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from September 21 to 27, came two days after the state cabinet decided to defer the release till Friday, following an all-party meeting on the issue.
Siddaramaiah maintained that the state was in ‘severe distress’ and struggling to meet even the drinking water needs in the Cauvery basin while repeatedly stressing that his government held the judiciary in great respect and there was no intention to disobey the Supreme Court order.
"Nobody should construe as if we are challenging the Supreme Court," he said, adding, his government had equal respect for all the three organs-- legislature, executive and judiciary, "more so for judiciary."
"People have given us a mandate. We cannot defy it," he said, asserting, otherwise, "it would be a dereliction of duty on our part."
Prefacing his remarks on the water crisis in the state, Siddaramaiah said, "We have great respect for the judiciary. The intention is not to disobey the judicial order. We will not think of it even in our dreams."
The resolution highlighted the ‘state of acute distress’, and said it was imperative that the government ensures that no water from the present storages be drawn "save and except" for meeting drinking water needs of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and Bengaluru.
The interests of the inhabitants of the state are likely to be gravely jeopardised if water in the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin was in anyway reduced other than for meeting the drinking water needs of the people, it said.
The resolution in English moved by Opposition BJP leader Jagadish Shettar and in Kannada by Y S V Datta of JDS pointed out that the combined storage in four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin -- Krishnaraja Sagar, Hemavathy, Harangi and Kabini -- had reached "alarmingly low levels at 27 TMC ft."
The Cauvery Supervisory Committee had on September 19 asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs from September 21 to 30, but the apex court had on September 20 doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs, to be released from September 21 to 27, after Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.
It had also directed the Centre to constitute within four weeks the Cauvery Water Management Board as directed by Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
Armed with an all-party meeting mandate, the state cabinet had on Tuesday decided to defer the release of water to Tamil Nadu and convene a day's legislature session amid escalating row between the two neighbouring states.
Siddaramaiah said the four dams as of today had a storage of 27.6 TMC of water but "from today to May end we need 24.11 TMC water for drinking purpose for cities, towns, villages in the Cauvery basin and the whole of Bengaluru city."
"This is only for human consumption, other than this we need to provide water to cattle and animals. Water also gets evaporated. While we are struggling to provide even drinking water till May end....this is our distress. They (Tamil Nadu) are asking for water for Samba crop," he said.
He said the Mettur dam in Tamil Nadu had 52 TMC ft of water while farmers in Karnataka were "making sacrifices (with no water for crops)."
Siddaramaiah also said according to the National Water Policy, the priority was for drinking water, followed by irrigation and power generation.
"For us farmers are one-- be it in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka or Kerala," he said.
Earlier, participating in the debate, Shettar said there was a situation where the House had to pass a resolution as the order of the court was a "non performable direction."
He said the House's action was in no way contempt of court as there have been court orders where they have held that failure to implement an order which is impossible cannot be contempt.
Also charging that the apex court had "exceeded its limits" in passing the latest order, Shettar said BJP will work with the government in opposing the constitution of Cauvery Water Management Board.
JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy said successive governments had always respected the judicial system and implemented orders despite being in a difficult situation.
"We are moving this resolution with the sole intention of protecting the interest of our people," he said.
Also opposing the constitution of the board, he demanded that the Centre file an objection to it on September 27.
Stating that the Supreme Court order was not in consistence with the Constitution, BJP member Basavaraj Bommai told the government, "Strongly present our case before the court during the next hearings, all of us are with you, we are ready for any consequences, including going to jail."
With PTI Inputs