Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar said on Sunday, 1 October, that the state had filed a petition before the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) seeking a review of its order on the release of river water to neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
The CWMA on Friday asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu till 15 October, despite the state stating that there was not enough water.
Shivakumar, who is also the state’s water resources minister, meanwhile also said the inflow of water to reservoirs in the Cauvery basin increasing to 15,000 cusecs was a sign of respite.
The current situation
“On Saturday afternoon itself we filed a petition before the Management Authority (CWMA) seeking a review, following the suggestions given by senior former Judges including MN Venkatachalaiah (Former Chief Justice of India),” Shivakumar said.
Speaking to reporters, he said, “Meanwhile, I have got a report this morning — I’m checking two to three times a day — today inflow is 15,000 cusecs. It is good news for now.”
Farmers and people of the region (Cauvery basin) should pray to rain Gods, he said, adding, “If such inflow continues, there won’t be much trouble, as we have released water to state’s farmers for crops and seepage water is flowing.”
Shivakumar further said, “Recent rains in Bengaluru and areas below KRS dam — like Mandya, Kollegala, Hanuru, and among others — are also getting registered (as part of flow towards TN).”
He added: “So, in the last three days, there is a record regarding flow up to 6,500 cusecs (towards TN) despite us not releasing water from the KRS. So, if there are more rains, it will strengthen us.”
He, however, maintained that the legal fight that is necessary will continue.
Water scarcity due to rain deficit
Karnataka has been maintaining that it is not in a position to release water, taking into account its own need for drinking water and irrigation for standing crops in the Cauvery basin areas, as there has been water scarcity due to deficit monsoon rains.
Farmers and pro-Kannada organisations have been protesting in various parts of the state against releasing water to Tamil Nadu and two bandhs were called in a week — in Bengaluru on 26 September, and statewide on 29 September — in this regard.
In the meeting held in Delhi on Friday, the CWMA — after hearing the arguments of both the states’ representatives — directed the Karnataka government to release 3,000 cusecs of water every day to Tamil Nadu till 15 October.
On 26 September, the CWRC recommended Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs of water to the neighbouring state every day from 28 September to 15 October.
According to sources South First spoke to earlier, “The representatives of Karnataka requested the CWMA to consider the prevailing storages in four reservoirs of the Cauvery river basin in the state. The four dams have insufficient water to meet the requirement of irrigation and drinking water needs.”
They added: “It requested to reconsider the CWRC recommendations and give a break from releasing water to Tamil Nadu for 15 days.”
Demand by Tamil Nadu
On the other hand, Tamil Nadu’s representatives demanded that the CWMA order the release of 12,500 cusecs, including a backlog of 12.5 tmcft.
After the detailed deliberations, the CWMA upheld the directions of the CWRC and directed the Karnataka government to release water to the neighbouring Tamil Nadu till 15 October.
Considering the advice of the legal experts, the Siddaramaiah government also decided to fight for the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project before the Supreme Court and the CWMA.
Siddaramaiah told reporters earlier: “In the previous argument before the Supreme Court, when our advocates spoke about the Mekedatu project, the court said that it would list the matter after two weeks and hear arguments on it. The legal experts insisted on making the Mekedatu proposal. The Mekedatu reservoir has to be built. Hence, we should convince the highest court of the country.”
He continued: “The Mekedatu reservoir project will not cause any harm to Tamil Nadu. They are opposing this because of political reasons. Last year, 650 tmcft went to Tamil Nadu. If there is a balancing reservoir, we can store 67 tmcft. This is not being built for irrigation purposes but for drinking water and power generation purposes. This will help people of Bengaluru and Kolar for drinking water.”
Siddaramaiah also said: “We will release the remaining water to Tamil Nadu. In the distress period, we can release the stored water to the neighbouring state from the Mekedatu balancing reservoir. We cannot utilise this water. They also insisted that we argue effectively before the apex court on building the Mekedatu balancing project. So, we will soon decide about filing a petition on the matter.”
Less water in reservoirs
While the South West monsoon is nearing an end in Karnataka, the four reservoirs in the Cauvery River basin have only 52 percent water storage left.
According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) reports: “The four reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin are left with only 52 percent water, which amounts to 59.65 tmcft against the maximum storage capacity of 114.57 tmcft. The Krishna Raja Sagara reservoir has only 20.96 tmcft against the maximum capacity of 49.45 tmcft.”
It added: “The inflow stands at 4,835 cusecs and outflow at 2,348 cusecs. The Haranagi, Hemavathi, and Kabini reservoirs have water storage of 6.78 tmcft, 18.53 tmcft, and 13.38tmc against the maximum capacity of 8.50 tmcft, 37.10 tmcft, and 19.52 tmcft, respectively.”
Since the onset of the South West monsoon in Karnataka, the state has recorded a rain deficit in three of the last four months. “The state has recorded a rain deficit of 25 percent since 1 June, 2023. In September, the state witnessed a rain deficit of 10 percent,” said the centre.
“In the same period, the South, North, and Malnad regions recorded rain deficits of 18, 20, and 16 percent, respectively. In a relief to the coastal area, the region recorded 27 percent excess rain in the last 28 days,” claimed KSNDMC reports.
“Karnataka needs 70 tmcft of water for irrigation to sustain crops, 30 tmcft for drinking water, and 3 tmcft for industry purposes. The state has a total requirement of 106 tmcft. But, the Cauvery basin has only 50 tmcft of water,” according to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).
(With PTI inputs)