CWMA orders Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu amidst drought in river basin

Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar said the government will approach the Supreme Court against the authority's directive

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Sep 18, 2023 | 8:25 PM Updated Sep 18, 2023 | 8:25 PM

Cauvery Water Regulation Committee recommends Karnataka release 3,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu till 15 October. (Flickr)

In a major setback to Karnataka, the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) upheld the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC)’s order and directed the Karnataka government to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu till 28 September.

The CWMA issued the directive after a meeting held to review the CWRC recommendations in Delhi on Monday, 18 September. Officials and legal teams of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu attended the meeting.

On 12 September, the CWRC directed Karnataka to ensure 5,000 cusecs of water every day to Tamil Nadu for 15 days from 13 September.

However, the Karnataka government refused to release water to Tamil Nadu, saying that the state was reeling under severe drought and lack of water in the four reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also wrote a letter to the Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, saying, “Karnataka is not in a position to release water” to the neighbouring state from 13 September.

Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, who holds the Water Resources portfolio, told reporters on Monday that the government would move the Supreme Court against the CWRC directive. He also appealed to the officials of the authority to visit the Cauvery river basin.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a petition on Cauvery river water sharing on 21 September.

Related: Karnataka government identifies 195 talukas as drought-hit

Karnataka expresses helplessness

At the CWMA meeting, Karnataka’s representative highlighted the severity of the drought in the Cauvery basin.

“The drought has been increasing and enlarging, putting at greater risk even the drinking water needs and minimum needs of irrigation. We are not in a position to release water unless the inflows into the reservoirs improve,” Karnataka submitted before the authority.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu urged for releasing 12,500 cusecs of water (including a backlog of 6,500 cusecs) for the next 15 days.

After hearing the submissions of both states, the CWMA upheld the recommendations of the CWRC and ordered Karnataka to ensure 5,000 cusecs of water is released at Biligundlu for the next 15 days.

“The water is now not being released to Tamil Nadu. We have not received any directions from the state government to release water,” Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Limited’s KRS Dam Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) Farooq Abu told South First.

“The water is being discharged only to the canals. We have stopped water supply to Tamil Nadu since 11 September,” he added.

Related: Unraveling the century-old Cauvery river dispute

Alarming situation

The Cauvery river basin is grappling with a crisis of alarming proportions. As the monsoon season enters its third month, a disquieting reality has begun to unfold.

The four reservoirs, in the region, that sustain its agricultural and ecological vitality, now teeter on the brink of depletion, holding a mere 53 percent of their capacity.

This alarming statistic paints a grim portrait of a region that relies heavily on the Cauvery’s waters for its very survival. The spectre of water scarcity looms ominously, casting a shadow over the future of the Cauvery basin and the millions of lives it sustains.

According to Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) reports, “The four reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin are left with only 53 percent water storage. In Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) dam, the water storage stands at 20.45 tmc against the maximum capacity of 49.45 percent.”

“The inflow stands at 4,176 cusecs and outflow is 4,730 cusecs. In Harangi, Hemavathi and Kabini reservoirs the water storage level stands at 8.21 tmc, 17.23 tmc and 14.97 tmc, respectively,” reports claimed.

Meanwhile, the state is reeling under severe drought. The state has recorded a 25 percent rain deficit since the onset of the monsoon.

Malnad and Coastal regions have recorded 39 and 22 percent rain deficits, respectively. North and South Karnataka have reported a 17 and 23 percent rain deficit, respectively.

The cabinet-subcommittee under the headship of Minister of Revenue Krishna Byre Gowda has recommended the chief minister to declare 195 talukas as drought-affected areas. The official announcement is likely in a week or two.

Related: SC to set up bench to hear TN plea for release of Cauvery water

Deve Gowda calls for talks

Meanwhile, JD(S) supremo and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda appealed to both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments to resolve the Cauvery water dispute through talks instead of opting for a legal battle.

“This quarrel will not be resolved legally until both states have some sort of smooth understanding. All of us must sit together and sort out the issues,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.

“Karnataka is facing many water disputes, including the Mahadayi dispute with Goa and Krishna river dispute with Telangana. These issues will not be resolved until we sit together and find an amicable solution,” Gowda said while appealing for talks.

“The Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs had summoned the leaders of all the political parties. The meeting was chaired by Union Minister for Defence Rajnath Singh. Some of our colleagues/friends from the neighbouring state (Tamil Nadu) raised the Cauvery issue,” he said.

“There were news reports that I did not raise any objection to it. It is unfortunate that having served for over four decades in this House, the media in Karnataka reported that Deve Gowda is not interested in protecting the interests of farmers, and the people of Karnataka on the Cauvery river issue,” he further said.

“I do not want to go to the merits and demerits of this 200-year-old river dispute. “They (Tamil Nadu) have a majority with 40 members. We are only 28-member strong but there is no unity among the members of Karnataka,” he said.

“The people are suffering. I have fought this battle for six decades. I will make it clear that I will stand by the people of Karnataka,” Gowda expressed discontent over the lack of unity among Karnataka MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Bommai condemns CWMA order

BJP senior leader and former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai condemned the CWMA ordering Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu for the next 15 days.

In a post on X, Bommai said: “CWMA upholding the order of CWRC ordered the Karnataka government to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day, which is an order that is impossible to comply with.”

“The state government should immediately go to the Supreme Court and convince why water cannot be released. The government must make them realise the ground reality in the Cauvery river basin,” he urged.

Slamming the government for releasing water to Tamil Nadu (in the last week of August), Bommai said: “The state government has started releasing water before the apex court order and has tied its own hands.”

“The government must go for a legal battle in the Supreme Court to provide justice to the people of Karnataka,” the former chief minister demanded.

Related: Karnataka refuses to release Cauvery water, cites drought conditions

Farmers seek support from Bengaluru and Mysuru residents

Opposing the CWMA order, Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association President Kurbur Shanthakumar appealed to the residents of Bengaluru and Mysuru to participate in the ongoing Cauvery river water protest.

“We are disappointed with the CWMA order. There is no water here itself then from where should we supply water to Tamil Nadu,” he told reporters.

“The government is yet to announce its stand. As of now, we have withdrawn the protest as the state government announced its stand and has not released water to the neighbouring state. If the government revokes its stand, then we will launch the protest,” he asserted.

“The residents of Bengaluru and Mysuru are also beneficiaries of the Cauvery river. These two cities are largely dependent on the Cauvery river for drinking water purposes,” he pointed out.

“The people in these two cities should raise their voices and join hands with the farmers. If we don’t fight for our rights, then the situation will worsen in the coming days,” Shanthakumar added.