Cauvery Water Dispute: Civil Services Mentor Magazine: October - 2016

Cauvery Water Dispute

Sharing of water of the cauvery river has been a source of dispute between the state of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for some time. The genesis of this conflict rests in two agreements in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and Princely State of Mysore. The British controlled both Mysore and Madras for a short period in the middle of the 19th century. During their regime, numerous plans were drawn up for the utilization of the Kaveri waters by both states. However, the drought and subsequent famine in the mid-1870s put a hold on the implementation of these plans. The plans were revived by Mysore in 1881, by which time Mysore was back in the hands of the Mysore kings, while present day Tamil Nadu continued to remain a part of the Madras Presidency. Mysore's plans to revive the irrigation projects met with resistance from the Madras Presidency. Mysore state made a representation to the Madras Presidency then British government; as a result of which eventually the Agreement of 1892 was signed.

Things came to a head in 1910 when Mysore, came up with a plan to construct a dam at Kannambadi village to hold up to 41.5 TMC of water. The dam was planned to be built in two stages. Madras however, refused to give its consent for this move as it had its own plans to build a storage dam at Mettur with a capacity of 80 TMC. After a reference to the Government of India, permission was accorded to Mysore, but for a reduced storage of 11TMC. Then British Government of India referred the matter to arbitration. The cauvery dispute thus had come up for arbitration for the first time. Sir H D Griffin was appointed arbitrator and M. Nethersole was made the Assessor. They entered into proceedings on 16 July 1913 and the Award was given on 12 May 1914. The award upheld the earlier decision of the Government of India and allowed Mysore to go ahead with the construction of the dam up to 11 TMC. Madras appealed against the award and negotiations continued. Eventually an agreement was arrived at in 1924 and a couple of minor agreements were also signed in 1929 and 1933. The 1924 agreement was set to lapse after a run of 50 years.

This problem between two states increased after the Indian independence. After the reorganisation of Indian states on the linguistic lines, one more state Kerala came into existence who shared the cauvery river basin along with the union terrritory of puduchery.

The 802 kilometres (498 mi) Cauvery river has 44,000 km2 basin area in Tamil Nadu and 32,000 km2 basin area in Karnataka. Karnataka contains that agreements were in favour of Tamil nadu and Karnataka wants to renegotiate the terms of settlements. Tamil Nadu on the other hand says that it has developed a long stretch of land based upon the existing pattern of water usage of the cauvery. Tamil Nadu says any change in the pattern of water distribution will affect the livelihood of millions of the farmers in the state. Both the states negotiated for sharing of the water for decades without any success then the Union government set up a tribunal to look into the matter of cauvery dispute.

The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was constituted by the Government of India on 2nd June 1990 to adjudicate the water dispute regarding inter-state river Cauvery and the river valley thereof. The Tribunal had passed an Interim Order in June, 1991 and further Clarificatory Orders on the Interim Order in April, 1992 and December, 1995. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal has submitted its reports and decision to Government on 2007. The party states and the Central Govt. have sought clarification and guidelines under Section 5(3) of the Act. Under the provisions of Section 6A of the ISWD Act, 1956, the Central Government has notified a Scheme called Cauvery Water (implementation of the Order of 1991 and all subsequent Related Orders of the Tribunal) Scheme, 1998, consisting of Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC). The Cauvery River Authority consists of the Prime Minister as Chairperson and Chief Ministers of the basin States as members. The Cauvery Monitoring Committee on the other hand, was an expert body which consisted of engineers, technocrats and other officers who would take stock of the 'ground realities' and report to the government. The Monitoring Committee consists of Secretary, MOWR as Chairperson, Chief Secretaries and Chief Engineers of the basin States as Members and Chairman, Central Water Commission as Member. The Authority is required to give effect to the implementation of the Interim Order dated 25th June 1991 of the Tribunal and its related subsequent orders.

Cauvery water disputes tribunal after looking into all the agreements and issues of the cauvery made following observations and passed an order for the sharing of the cauvery water. Tribunal in its award said "The Agreements of the years 1892 and 1924 which were executed between the then Governments of Mysore and Madras cannot be held to be invalid, specially after a lapse of about more than 110 and 80 years respectively. Before the execution of the two agreements, there was full consultation between the then Governments of Madras and Mysore. However, the agreement of 1924 provides for review of some of the clauses after 1974. The Tribunal hereby determines that the utilisable quantum of waters of the Cauvery at Lower Coleroon Anicut site on the basis of 50% dependability to be 740 thousand million cubic feet-TMC (20,954"
The Tribunal ordered that the waters of the river Cauvery be allocated in three States of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and U.T. of Pondicherry for their beneficial uses as mentioned hereunder:-

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