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Everything to Know About Cauveri Water Dispute

Updated on August 13, 2018
AJAY SANGWAN profile image

Ajay Sangwan is a Computer Science graduate from Hyderabad, India. He is a freelance writer.

The Cauvery water dispute is between the 2 southern states of India and they're Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The foundation of this conflict rests within the agreements in 1892 and 1924 (lapsed after a run of 50 years), signed among the Madras presidency and kingdom of Mysore.

In 1956, after the reorganization of states of India, parts of Kerala and Puducherry shared the Cauvery basin and became stakeholders in sharing of its waters.

Karnataka stand on the issue

  • Based on the inflow (Karnataka inflow is 425 TMC and Tamil Nadu inflow is 252 TMC), it is demanding its share of water from the Cauvery river.
  • Karnataka states that, the agreements of 1842 and 1924 are invalid, since they are in favour of Madras Presidency.

Tamil Nadu stand on the issue

  • Tamil Nadu has established almost 12,000 square km of land which heavily depends on existing Cauvery water system.
  • Any change in the system can affect the livelihood of millions of farmer in the state.

About Cauvery River

Cauvery (also called as Kaveri) is the third largest river (765 km) in South India after Godavari (1465 km) and Krishna (1300 km) rivers and flows through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states. It is the largest river in Tamil Nadu which divide the state into North and South.

The Cauvery River originates in Western Ghats at Talakaveri, Kodagu in Karnataka and get empty into Bay of Bengal in Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu. It forms two islands in Mandya district’s Srirangapatna and Shivanasamudra.

The Cauvery River have left and right tributaries and they are as follows:

  • Left Tributaries
    • Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha, Arkavathy
  • Right Tributaries
    • Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Bhavani, Noyyal, Amravati, Moyar, Suvarnavati

The Cauvery river have one of the most fertile basin’s (81,155 square km) and covers three states and a UT as follows:

Figure: Cauvery river Basin area (81,155 square km) division among 3 states and 1 UT
Figure: Cauvery river Basin area (81,155 square km) division among 3 states and 1 UT

Interstate agreements of 1892 and 1924

The 1892 agreement is a general agreement relating to a number of inter-state rivers whereas the 1924 agreement relates to the irrigation development in the basin of interstate river Cauvery alone. Both 1892 and 1924 agreements are permanent.

According to the agreements, no harm could be caused to existing irrigation system by the construction of new works upstream. In case its done, a prior permission from state governments has to be obtained.

The two important clauses of the agreements are:

  • Clause 10(XIV): Entitled the Mysore government to construct new reservoirs, on the tributaries of Cauvery, of capacities not exceeding 60% of the capacities of the reservoirs Madras government may choose to form on the tributaries Bhavani, Amaravati or Noyyil
  • Clause 10(XII): Gave freedom to either of the states to extend irrigation if effected solely by improvement of duty, without any increase of the quantity of water used

Important Cauvery Water Dispute Events

1. CFFC Report on 25-08-1976

  • As per the Cauvery Fact Finding Committee’s report, a draft was presented by GOI in an inter-state meeting in which states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala participated.
  • Meeting agenda: Discussion on the use and development of Cauvery waters
  • CFFC Meet Result: Total 671 TMC utilisation of Cauvery waters is agreed by the states in the below ratio:

Figure: Distribution of Cauvery water utilization (TMC) among states - CFFC
Figure: Distribution of Cauvery water utilization (TMC) among states - CFFC

2. Demand for the constitution of a tribunal by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in 1980s

The Supreme court directed the government headed by PM V.P Singh to constitute Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) to address all the issues related to Cauvery river . A three-man tribunal was constituted on 2 June 1990 headed by Justice Chittatosh Mookerjee, headquartered at New Delhi.

Below is the demand from the states to the Tribunal over Cauvery water utilisation:

3. Tribunal interim award – 1991

  • The Cauvery Water Dispute tribunal gave an interim award on 25 June 1991, by calculating the average inflows into Tamil Nadu past 10 years.The time period considered for evaluation was 1980-1990.
  • The tribunal ordered Karnataka to ensure 205 TMC reached Tamil Nadu in a water year. The tribunal also directed Karnataka not to increase its irrigated land area from existing 4500 square km

After Reaction:

  • Karnataka issued an ordinance seeking to declare the tribunal award invalid. Though, the ordinance was struck down by the Supreme Court and thus Karnataka had to accept the interim award
  • Violence broke out in parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu after this, mostly centred in Tamil populated parts of Bangalore

4. Constitution of Cauvery River Authority (CRA)

The Government in 1997 proposed setting up of CRA to ensure the implementation of Interim orders. Karnataka strongly protested the proposal to set up such an authority. Government set up two bodies under the new proposal and they are:

Cauvery River Authority

  • The CRA consist of Prime minister (Chairperson) and Chief Ministers of all four states (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala), headquartered in New Delhi.
  • The secretary in-charge of the ministry of the central government dealing with water resources shall be the Secretary of Authority.
  • Powers: Authority shall frame rules and regulations for conduct of its business.

Cauvery Monitoring Committee

  • The chairman of Monitoring committee will be the Secretary in-charge of the Ministry of Central Government dealing with water resources
  • Other members are: Chief Secretaries of the four states (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry)
  • The CMC is an expert body consisted of engineers, technocrats and other such officers who check the ground realities and report to government

5. CWDT Final Verdict – 2007

According to the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal verdict stated on 5 February 2007, below are the new TMC distribution set for the states for a total of 726 TMC.

Figure: Cauvery Water utilization decided by CWDT in its final verdict of 2007
Figure: Cauvery Water utilization decided by CWDT in its final verdict of 2007

After Reaction: Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were not satisfied with the verdict and filed a revision petition before the tribunal

6. 2018 Supreme Court Verdict

Supreme court pronounced its verdict on 16 February 2018, passed by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and A.M Khanwilkar, which include the below two points:

  • Reduced 14.75 TMC allocation to Tamil Nadu, i.e. now Karnataka has to release 177.25 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu for next 15 years
  • Mandated to constitute Cauvery River Management Board by the Union Government within 40 days to ensure the implementation of tribunal awards and its verdicts

Final allocation of 740 TMC as per the SC verdict is as follows:

Figure: Final allocation of 740 TMC as per the SC verdict 2018
Figure: Final allocation of 740 TMC as per the SC verdict 2018

After Reaction:

  • Karnataka government not happy to form Cauvery River Management Board (CRMB)
  • Central government not satisfied with the time period given to form CRMB

Major Drawback
The court did not seek the assistance of at least two technical experts as required under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act 1956, which can cause practical challenges on grounds in future.

Recently, Central government formed CWMA and CWRC on orders of Supreme Court to tackle Cauvery Water Dispute.

Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)

CWMA was formed on 1st June 2018 to address the dispute over sharing of river water among the 3 states and 1 Union Territory. Central Water Commission chairman S. Masood Hussain will be the head of CWMA. CWMA is the central coordinating organization which deal with the Cauvery water disputes.

Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC)
CWRC was formed on 22nd June 2018 as per the provisions in Cauvery Water Scheme. Chief engineer of Central Water Commission, Navin Kumar will be the first chairman of CWRC. CWRC will monitor water management on day-to-day basis.

This is all about the Cauvery Water Dispute, I hope that you all got a brief idea about the issue and the important events associated to it. .


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