Cauvery dispute: SC seeks CWMA report on whether Karnataka is complying with water release to TN

The court was informed that the CWRA was meeting on 28 August to decide the allocation and release of water to TN for the next 15 days.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Aug 25, 2023 | 4:07 PMUpdatedAug 25, 2023 | 4:08 PM

Cauvery river near Biligundlu. (Creative Commons)

The Supreme Court on Friday, 25 August, asked the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to submit a report on whether Karnataka complied with its 11 August, 2023, directive to release 10,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu.

Seeking a report from the CWMA, a bench comprising Justice BR Gavai, Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, was informed that the Cauvery Water Regulatory Authority (CWRA) was meeting on Monday, 28 August.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, urged the bench to pass an order directing Karnataka to continue supplying water as per the 11 August direction to the CWMA which is ending on 26 August.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati informed the court that CWRA was meeting on 28 August to decide the allocation and release of water to Tamil Nadu for the next 15 days.

Cauvery dispute: A century-old saga of water sharing and legal battles

Posted to 1 September

Posting the matter for further hearing on 1 September, the court recorded submissions made both by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on their respective applications filed before the CWMA.

While Karnataka is seeking a reduction in the allocation of water to Tamil Nadu, citing distress on account of inadequate rainfall, the latter is seeking enhancement in its allocation to irrigate sand to save its standing crops.

Rohatgi said that even if there was a shortfall in the rains by 25 percent which brought down the water storage level in reservoirs by 42.5 percent, the actual water Tamil Nadu got was far less than the proportionate share that the state should have got.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Karnataka, disputed Rohatgi stating that the quantum of water released to Tamil Nadu was more than what it was entitled to in a distress year.

Prior to its order asking the CWMA to submit a report on the compliance of its order on the release of water by Karnataka, Justice Gavai had asked Tamil Nadu to approach the CWMA to air its grievance as it was an expert body, which they were not.

“Why don’t you go to authority, they are experts, which we are not. How can we pass the order? If there is non-compliance, go to the authority,” Justice Gavai said.

‘Fight between CWRA and CWMA’

However, Rohatgi said, “There is a fight between two authorities. CWRA gave us 15,000 cusecs of water, CWMA reduced it to 10,000 cusecs.”

The Karnataka government opposed Tamil Nadu’s application for the release of Cauvery River water to realise 24,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water at Billigundulu for the period commencing from 14 August, 2023, to 31 August, 2023, to meet the urgent irrigation requirement of its standing crop.

Opposing Tamil Nadu’s application for the release of Cauvery water to realise its share of allocation for the second half of August (14 to 31 August), the Karnataka government had said that Tamil Nadu’s application was based on the assumption that rain was normal this year while that was not so.

Karnataka government said that Tamil Nadu seeking direction for the release of 36.76 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water in September had no legal foundations as the release of such quantity of water was stipulated only in a normal water year and not in a distress water year — which this year is.

Stating that the Tamil Nadu application was based on an “erroneous assumption” that this year was a normal rainwater year, the Karnataka government in its affidavit said that there was a shortfall in the rains by 25 percent till 9 August.

Consequently, the inflow of water in four reservoirs in the state was lesser by 42.5 percent as recorded by the CWMA, it added in the affidavit.

Related: Karnataka under fire for supplying Cauvery water to TN 

‘Monsoon failed’

“During this water year, the southwest monsoon has largely failed so far. Due to the failure of the southwest monsoon, the distress condition has arisen in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka. Karnataka, therefore is not obliged to and it cannot be compelled to ensure water as per the stipulated releases prescribed for the normal year,” states the affidavit by the Karnataka government.

Besides seeking direction for the release of 24,000 cusecs of water at Billigundulu, Tamil Nadu has sought direction to the Karnataka government to ensure the stipulated releases of 36.76 tmcft of water for September 2023 as per the Cauvery Water Tribunal Award as modified by the top court judgment of 16 February, 2018.

Tamil Nadu has sought further direction to the Karnataka government to make good the shortfall of 28.849 tmcft of water for the current irrigation year starting from 1 June, 2023 to 31 July, 2023.

It has further sought direction to the CWMA to ensure that the quantum of Cauvery water that Karnataka has to release to Tamil Nadu is fully implemented and the stipulated monthly releases during the remaining period of the current water year are fully given effect.

Related: Karnataka opposes TN plea in SC for release of water

‘Required to save standing crops’

Tamil Nadu, in its application, said that the deficit in supply at Billigundulu as of 9 August, 2023, which was 37.971 tmcft has to be ensured in addition to the demand of around 24,000 cusecs, in the month of August 2023, was required to save the standing crops.

Pointing out that the CWRC in its 84th meeting on 10 August, 2023, had directed Karnataka to release from its reservoirs so that 15,000 cusecs of water be released at Billigundulu from 11 August, 2023 (from 8 am) for the next 15 days, Tamil Nadu said: “Unfortunately, even this quantum of water was arbitrarily reduced to 10,000 cusecs by the CWMA in its 22nd meeting held on 11.08.2023, at the instance of Karnataka.”

It added: “Regretfully, even this amount of 10,000 cusecs to be ensured at Billigundulu by releasing such quantum of water from the KRS and Kabini reservoirs has not been complied with by the state of Karnataka.”

Tamil Nadu also stated: “Karnataka is duty bound to release the Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as per the Final Order passed by the Tribunal as modified by this Hon’ble Court. Karnataka has been directed daily/monthly releases during the months of June to January and thereafter from February to May for meeting the environment flows. In the current water year.”