Indian Hour

Cauvery Water Dispute: Supreme Court Declines Intervention Amidst Brewing Tensions

In a recent turn of events, the age-old Cauvery water dispute between the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has resurfaced, sparking fresh tensions. The latest development centers around the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) order directing Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for an additional 15 days. This directive has left both states in a precarious situation, as Karnataka claims there’s simply not enough water to meet this demand.

Historical Background of the Dispute

The history of the Cauvery water dispute dates back to the British era, with both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu vying for their share of the river’s precious waters. A semblance of resolution was reached in 1924 when the Mysore princely state and the Madras presidency agreed to an arrangement allowing Mysore to build a dam at Kannambadi village to store a substantial volume of water, subject to periodic reviews. However, post-independence, the dispute found its way to the Supreme Court multiple times, with no lasting resolution.

Role of the Tribunal

The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was eventually constituted in 1990 by the Indian government to mediate the water disputes between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry. The CWDT issued interim orders, including a mandate for Karnataka to release 205 million cubic feet of water to Tamil Nadu on a monthly or weekly basis.

Fast forward to the present day, and the conflict has escalated once again. The CWMA’s recent order has been met with opposition. Karnataka’s leaders argue that they are already facing a water shortage and that releasing more water would exacerbate their predicament. Siddaramaiah, Karnataka’s Chief Minister, pointed out that their region’s rainfall ceases after August, whereas Tamil Nadu continues to receive rain, giving them a higher groundwater table.

Supreme Court’s Refusal to Interfere

However, the Supreme Court’s recent decision has thrown a wrench into the works. The Court refused to intervene in the CWMA’s order, emphasizing that the CWMA and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) should consider various factors, including drought and deficit rainfall, before passing such orders. Therefore, the Court declined to interfere with the order directing Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu.

This decision has left both states at an impasse, with Tamil Nadu arguing that Karnataka has consistently been uncooperative in sharing the Cauvery River’s waters. Meanwhile, Karnataka contends that their situation is dire, with insufficient water even for drinking purposes.

Looking Ahead

The dispute over the Cauvery River’s waters is a long-standing one, marked by historical grievances and changing circumstances. It has not only societal but also political implications. While legal battles continue to provide some guidance, the essence of the issue remains rooted in the need for equitable water sharing in a region heavily dependent on this precious resource. In a nation grappling with the impacts of climate change and growing water stress, resolving such disputes amicably and sustainably is a necessity for the well-being and prosperity of all its citizens.


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