Cauvery dispute: Karnataka CM proposes evolving distress formula for sharing water

Siddaramaiah also proposed implementation of Mekedatu project

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy D.K. Shivakumar | PTI Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy D.K. Shivakumar | PTI

Expressing the Karnataka government's commitment to protect the state and its farmers' interest with regards to the dispute over releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday stressed on evolving a distress formula for water sharing and implementation of Mekedatu project that would mitigate such issues during rainfall deficit years.

Maintaining that despite scarcity owing to shortfall in southwest monsoon rains, Karnataka has released Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu to an extent possible considering its own requirements for drinking water and standing crops, he accused the neighbouring state of opposing the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project without any grounds or reason.

The Chief Minister today had convened an all-party meeting to discuss the inter-state river disputes like Cauvery and Mahadayi among others.

At the meeting, it was decided to effectively fight a legal battle in the Supreme Court regarding the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, and cooperation was sought from opposition parties about taking an all-party delegation to the Centre, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aimed at resolving inter-state water issues and pending projects.

Earlier this week, Tamil Nadu had approached the apex court with a plea to direct Karnataka to release 24,000 cusecs of Cauvery water daily for standing crops.

Karnataka has been maintaining that it will be able to release water to Tamil Nadu taking into account its needs like drinking water and standing crops in the Cauvery basin areas citing scarcity due to deficit monsoon rains.

"It is the unanimous view of all parties that whether it is on the issue of the state's water, language or border -- while taking a stand there is no politics. They have expressed their support to any decision or stand taken by the government in the interest of the state," Siddaramaiah said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he said till August end, Karnataka had to release 86.38 tmc of water, but due to deficient monsoon rainfall in the catchment areas of the Cauvery basin resulting in lower inflow, Karnataka is unable to release the desired amount of water.

"Keeping in mind the interest of our farmers and their crops, and our drinking water requirements, the state has released water as far as possible, but the distress formula is still not ready till today, neither in the tribunal nor in the Supreme Court," he added.

Stating that the state's legal team has been directed to make an effective argument on behalf of the state before the Supreme Court, the Chief Minister said, when Tamil Nadu's petition came up for hearing in the apex court, the state government advocates have argued that it is not maintainable.

The matter is once again coming up before the SC on August 25, he said, adding the "state's legal team has been asked to ensure that their (TN) petition is rejected and all that is possible should be done to protect the interest of the state."

In the meeting, Siddaramaiah said it was also discussed to take an all-party delegation to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and Union Jal Shakti Minister aimed at resolving the Mekedatu, Mahadayi issues, and the Upper Krishna project for which a gazette notification is yet to be published.

"I have sought cooperation of opposition parties in making the Centre understand the ground realities about the inter-state water issues and projects pending with the Centre for clearances," he added.

Stressing on the need for evolving a distress formula, the Chief Minister said Karnataka should be allowed to go ahead with the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project.

"With the Mekedatu project whose capacity will be 67 tmc, during such distress situations, we can release water to Tamil Nadu. Without any reason or ground, they (TN) are opposing. We have already prepared a DPR for the project as sought by Central Water Commission, they have asked Cauvery (Water Management) Authority's opinion, which is yet to meet on the issue," he said.

Former chief ministers B S Yediyurappa, M Verappa Moily, D V Sadananda Gowda, Jagadish Shettar, H D Kumaraswamy and Basavaraj Bommai were present at the meeting, along with some Members of Parliament and leaders from various parties.

Various Ministers of the state government, including Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar, who is also in-charge of Water Resources department, and Karnataka's legal team, including Advocate General and lawyers, representing in the Supreme Court were present in the meeting.

Noting that the Supreme Court in February 2018 had given a final order on sharing the Cauvery river water and have determined the quantum of water to be released to Tamil Nadu every month, Siddaramaiah said Karnataka has released 26.07 tmc against 86.38 tmc till August end due to deficit rainfall.

"We have released 2.8 tmc against 9.19 tmc in June, 8.74 tmc against 31.24 tmc in July, and 26 tmc till August 22 against 45.95 tmc," he said.

There is Cauvery Water Management Authority and Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee, consisting of representatives from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the Centre by the Supreme Court to implement its orders in 2018, the Chief Minister said. According to the order, Tamil Nadu should get 177.25 tmc water at Biligundlu in normal years.

"But such distress situation comes in Karnataka once in every five to six years like cycle, so we have been saying before the Authority and the Committee that we will not be able to release water to Tamil Nadu as there is no water," he said.

"We have to protect the crops grown by farmers, and also have the responsibility of providing drinking water to the people. Keeping both these in mind, we have placed our argument before the Cauvery Water Management Authority," he added.

The Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee on August 10 decided that 15,000 cusecs per day would be released by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu for 15 days, and following the state's objection, the CWMA asked the state to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu on a daily basis for the next 15 days. Subsequent to these developments, the state government has filed an appeal for reconsideration, the Chief Minister pointed out.

In the meanwhile, Tamil Nadu went to the Supreme Court with a petition that Karnataka has not released water, Siddaramaiah said, noting that at Mettur dam in the neighbouring state, there was 63 tmc water.

"For kuruvai (short duration) crop, what TN need is 32 tmc of water, but what they have utilised is more than 60 tmc water, that means they have increased acreage under kuruvai crop more than 1.85 lakh acre. Despite that, there is water in Mettur dam, but still they are complaining about not releasing water," the Chief Minister explained.

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