Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Big Picture- Cauvery Dispute: Why Has It Gone Out Of Hand?



The Big Picture- Cauvery Dispute: Why Has It Gone Out Of Hand?



The dispute over sharing of Cauvery water between the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu once again stirred the emotions in both the states leading to violence and destruction of public property in Karnataka. The monsoon which started on a promising note in Karnataka later on suddenly tapered off leading to shortage of water in four reservoirs across the Cauvery. Due to this Karnataka has not been able to fulfill its obligation of ensuring 94 tmc feet of water between June and August to Tamil Nadu as mandated by the Cauvery tribunal in its final order in 2007. The shortfall is more than 60 tmc feet with Karnataka releasing 33 tmc feet in the last three months. Following Tamil Nadu’s appeal before the Supreme Court, Karnataka was ordered to release 15000 tmc feet of water for 10 days between between 7th to 16th September 2016 and in the recent order Supreme Court asked to release further 12000 tmc feet till 20th September 2016.


  1. There are many issues which need to be resolved in this regard one of them being to make both the states agree to a distress formula in a season of deficit rainfall. Both the states have not agreed to any such thing so far.
  2. The Cauvery Supervisory Committee that is a temporary arrangement has a fairly limited operational scope though it was formulated on the directions of Supreme Court when a similar kind of situation prevailed in 2012. There is a need to have a permanent body which has been recommended by tribunal as well.
  3. The way media has presented and blown this issue out of proportion has also led to escalation of emotions without much reason. It has become something more about regional and linguistic identity rather than water or irrigation.
  4. Ideally, as stipulated by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, Cauvery Management Board should look into the technicalities of water sharing which is there to monitor the water flows. These technical aspects have not been taken into consideration in the decision given by the Supreme Court.

Courts and tribunals are good and of course they do provide constitutional schemes but what is needed now is a bilateral or trilateral consensus that works for a longer duration than this piecemeal approach of tribunals and courts. Politicians need to be on ground to control mobs, emotions and passions of people when judiciary verdicts do not find acceptance among people.

Taking into account geographical aspects, Karnataka depends upon south west monsoon for water. Rainfall occurs from June to September. This is the reason for Krishnasagar dam and Coorg area to have low water levels. On the contrary, rainfall occurs in Tamil Nadu in October. This issue is all about managing the scanty resources effectively and in a sustainable manner. There is a need for an independent body or the supervisory committee to look the requirements of the states, the ground situation and measurement of water level.

This issue needs to be dealt in a sensitive manner keeping in mind the requirements and limitations of both the states. The needs of the farming community is something that has to be safeguarded at large and the fringe elements involved in acts of violence should be strictly dealt with to send out a strong signal that this is not a solution to any problem.