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Understanding the Kaveri River Water Sharing Dispute

Understanding the Kaveri River Water Sharing Dispute

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Published by catchvasant
Understanding the Kaveri River Water Sharing Dispute
Understanding the Kaveri River Water Sharing Dispute

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Published by: catchvasant on Oct 09, 2012
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Understanding the Kaveri River Water Sharing Dispute
Kaveri river water sharing dispute has cropped up again. A small crisis once in every three to four years and a slightlybigger crisis once in a decade has been a regular affair in this dispute. Here is an attempt to go into the history of thisdispute and take a holistic view of the problem and the kind of solution needed.
Kaveri, a life line of Karnataka and Tamilnadu !
 Tamilnadu has been arguing that it has prescriptive right over the flows of river Kavery on the ground that it is thelower riparian State and hence has a right of prior appropriation of the waters of it. It laid claim on the principle of rightof easement saying that they have been enjoying the flow of that river for centuries and their economy isheavily dependent on such flows as such there is no question of interrupting the flow of such river by the upper riparian State. It has been using these arguments to pass the message that upper riparian state has no right over Kaveri river water. Going by this argument, no state including lower riparian state can build any dams across anyriver for that matter ! If left as it is most of the river water would go waste flowing down into the sea. Storing river water plays a vital role in the progress of human society and hence both lower as well as upper riparian states havedue rights to store water. With that comes the question, who can hold what amount of water? how much the upper riparian state can hold for itself and how much should be the share of lower riparian state? how should it be shared intimes of lean season? All these questions need to be answered in a fair and just manner. If such a formula is alreadyin place, no water related disputes will ever arise, but when political clout, unfair laws of the past decide how water will be shared between these parties, injustice is a given to all weaker parties involved. In the matter of Kaveri river water sharing, Karnataka has been experiencing injustice for more than a 100 years. How did we land up where weare now? How do we resolve this? Although the conflict has a long history, let's look at two key developments that had important implications on thisconflict. Firstly, the political upper hand Madras presidency enjoyed under the British over the Mysore kingdom.Secondly, the technological and scientific revolutions that led to the building of dams and canals and the consequentincrease in the area of irrigation in the Kaveri basin. In 1892 and 1924, two separate treaties were signed betweenthe Mysore kingdom and the Madras presidency under the British. To be honest, the state of Mysore was co-erced tosign those treaties that were heavily biased towards the british ruled Madras state. State of Mysore was hoping thatafter India's independence and India becoming a federal democracy formed on the foundation of equality for all; allthe unfair agreements of the past will be buried and a fair and just way of sharing water would be put in place thatwould be acceptable to both the states, but that wish never came true. The tradition of injustice continued with theformation of Kaveri tribunal in the 90s and its interim judgement in 1991 and its final judgement in 2007.Can any court give solution to such a conflict? Does river water sharing come under the jurisdiction of the Supremecourt? Or, Should it come under it at all? Can agreements of colonial era or historical claims become basis to decideriver water sharing ? On what basis did the tribunal give it's interim and final judgements? On what basis is the Primeminister of India asking Karnataka to release water? On what basis the Supreme Court is asking Karnataka to honour the CRA's decision? we'll discuss these questions in the future posts.
The river Kaveri starts her journey from Talakaveri in Kodagu district and runs more than 800 kms in her journey toBay of Bengal. Hemavathi, Suvarnavathi, Arkavathi and Shimsha are tributaries of river Kaveri in Karnataka. Kabini isanother tributary that originates in Kerala and joins Kaveri in Karnataka (KA). In Tamilnadu (TN), Bhavani, Noyyil and
 Amaravati are three tributaries of it. Kaveri flows a length of 320 kms within Karnataka, for 64 kms it’s flow acts as
border between Karnataka and Tamilnadu, while after that it flows for about 416 kms within Tamilnadu beforeemptying into the Bay of Bengal.
Here is some data about Kaveri’s flow in Karnataka and Tamilnadu
A bitter reward for being patriotic!
British were ruling Madras Presidency from 17th century itself. In Mysore, Hyderali, Tippu Sultan, the then rulers of Mysore died fighting the colonial powers and eventually Mysore Kingdom became a Princely state subservient to theBritish. Though the river Kaveri was flowing in Mysore state, the irrigation in the state was primarily dependent onMonsoon rains. Although the rulers of Mysore wanted to change that by building irrigation water supply facilities, theyhad to get permission for every small thing from the British delaying their progress. After a lot of letter exchanges withMadras, the agreement of 1892 was imposed on Mysore Kingdom. With that agreement, Mysore was made to pay for fighting the Colonial forces!
The gist of the 1892 agreement
Krishna, Kaveri and Tungabhadra were the rivers flowing from Karnataka to the then Madras Presidency. Being alower riparian state, Madras state was making use of these waters for centuries. Hence several restrictions wereimposed on Mysore to not disturb the existing availability of water with Madras state. Some of the them were:Mysore was required to obtain Madras' consent for any new irrigation reservoirs across any of the mainrivers it wished to utilize and share information on any new irrigation scheme it wished to undertake to utilizethe waters.Mysore state cannot build a dam across Tungabhadra river 
in the lower area of Haveri road. It can’t buildany dams across Kaveri in the lower area of Ramaswamy dam and it can’t build any dams across Kabini
river in the lower area of Rampura dam !While repairing a dam or while constructing a new dam in place of an old dam, no efforts should be made tocollect more water than what is being held now.
Such biased rules literally broke the neck of Karnataka’s irrigation projects. At the same time, no such restrictions of 
any kind were imposed on Tamilnadu. It was eve
n allowed to increase it’s area of irrigation without any interruptions.
This is the beginning of a long journey of injustice to the state of Mysore and it’s people who are experiencing the
effects of this agreement to this date.
The agreement of 1924
In reality, the 1892 agreement was made applicable to all the rivers flowing in the state of Mysore. Accordingly, thestate of Mysore applied for permission to build a dam at Kannambadi as per the 1892 agreement. Madras however,refused to give its consent for this move. The relentless efforts of Nalvadi Krishnaraj Vodeyar, the then king of Mysorealong with his chief engineer Sir M Vishweshvaraiah resulted in the agreement of 1924 between Mysore and Madrasstates. The agreement was signed for a period of 50 years from 1924. As the agreement was letting Mysore to goahead with the construction of Kannambadi dam, it signed the agreement although it was heavily biased towardsMadras. The agreement also stipulated that Mysore was not to increase its area under irrigation more than 110,000acres beyond what was already existing, while the same cap for Madras Presidency was pegged at 301000 acres!
Madras was given a free hand in building any number of dams in it’s territory and Mysore was also allowed to build a
matching dam with a capacity 40% lower than that of the dam built by Madras! At the time of independence, the state of Mysore was expecting that all these unfair and biased agreements will go
away with British. Unfortunately, Mysore didn’t get any respite f 
rom the unfair agreement of 1924. Mysore triedstarting a couple of new irrigation projects post-independence.
Roadblocks for Karnataka even in Independent India!
Yes, when Karnataka sought the permission of Government of India to start these new projects, the central govt
replied saying “First get permission from Tamilnadu! Resolve your conflicts with them and then come back!
” How can
anyone believe that Tamilnadu will give permission when it had opposed the very construction of Kannambadi itself ?Why s
hould we seek Tamilnadu’s permission? Is Karnataka a princely state of Tamilnadu? Karnataka went aheadand built 4 dams in it’s territory without worrying much about permission of Central or Tamilnadu governments. The
reservoirs that came up as a result were Hemavathi, Kabini, Haarangi and Suvarnavathi. The very construction of these reservoirs has led to the present day conflict of Kaveri river water sharing.
Tamilnadu, over several years discussed this issue with Karnataka and when Karnataka didn’t relent to it’s pressure
tactics, went to the Prime Minister and complained. Later, a private organization called
“Tamilnadu KaveriNeerappasan Vilaiporulugal Vivasaayigal Naala Urimai Podugappu Sangam”
approached the court with a complaint.Even the government of Tamilnadu filed a case in the court seeking to form a tribunal to settle this matter. After reviewing the matter, the honourable Supreme Court of India as per article 262 of the Constitution directed the UnionGovernment to form the The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and Union government obliged by forming the same in1990.By the year 1971, Karnataka, which contributes more than 53% of water into Kaveri river was irrigating in 6.74 lakhacres of land, while Tamilnadu with a contribution of around 31% of water into Kaveri river was irrigating in 23.60 lakhacres of land. Today, Karnataka irrigates in around 11.2 lakh acres of land while Tamilnadu does it in 29.4 acres of land almost 3 times that of Karnataka. In 1968, with permission when Karnataka tried taking up Haarangi and Kabiniprojects, Tamilnadu went to the Supreme court with objection. Fearing delay in judgement, Karnataka went for acompromise by giving in writing that the state won't store water for more than 6 months in these reservoirs and won't

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