Within days of the JD(S) joining hands with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), former prime minister and party chief HD Deva Gowda has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to appoint an external agency to study all the reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin.
The agency, Deve Gowda said his letter on Monday, 25 September, should be independent of the Union as well as the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments that are involved in the dispute over the river’s waters. He asked Modi to direct the Union Ministry of Water Resources (Jal Shakti) to pick the the external agency.
Deve Gowda’s missive comes at a time the two states are caught in a legal and political tussle over the river waters, and the Cauvery basin is witnessing vehement protests over the Supreme Court directive to Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu.
Gowda also insisted upon the determination of a suitable formula for the distribution of water from the river in distress years.
Dire situation in southern Karnataka
The former prime minister noted that the four reservoirs of the Cauvery basin in Karnataka — Krishna Raja Sagara Dam, Kabini, Hemavathi, and Harangi — had only 51.10 tmcft water against the requirement of 112 tmcft in Karnataka for standing crops and drinking water.
He also criticised the Tamil Nadu government for demanding the release of more water from the Cauvery river.
“The attitude of Tamil Nadu in pressing for additional releases far in excess of the 40 tmcft already released so far is not only unjust but also against all principles of equity and natural justice, considering the fact that providing drinking water is a fundamental right under the Constitution and it gets the highest priority in the National Water Policy,” Gowda wrote in his letter to Modi.
The JD(S) chief gave four suggestions to the prime minister to “avoid further escalation of the raging conflict”. He called for the agency to have expertise “in the field of Integrated Reservoir Operation Studies”.
He added that the agency should place the report of the studies before the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) and the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) for consideration, in consultation with the states involved in the dispute.
The agency should also be vested with the responsibility of arriving at a suitable distress formula, taking into consideration all factors like the deficiency in rainfall, inflows, reservoir levels, storage positions, crop and drinking water requirements, the different monsoons in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, actual utilisation under various categories, and mandatory discharges to be made by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, said the former prime minister.
The five-member committee should report “not only to the CWMA for taking appropriate action but also to the Supreme Court, as a measure of immediate relief”, Gowda wrote.
He said the CWMA and the CWRC should make periodical visits to all the identified/designated reservoirs in the Cauvery basin — preferably once in 15 days — to assess the ground realities instead of relying only on the records placed before them.
The former prime minister highlighted that the rainfall received in Karnataka this year in the months of August and September is the lowest in the last 123 years.
“It is a curse that Karnataka happens to be the upper riparian state in the Cauvery basin and is always obliged to fulfil the demands of the downstream state,” Gowda pointed out.
Siddaramaiah seconds Deve Gowda
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah welcomed the letter written by Deve Gowda to Modi.
“The only effective and appropriate solution to the current situation is for Modi to mediate and resolve the issue through dialogue to avoid the injustice that is happening down south to the two states,” he said.
ಕಾವೇರಿ ನೀರು ಹಂಚಿಕೆಗೆ ಸಂಬಂಧಿಸಿದಂತೆ ನಾಡಿಗೆ ಎದುರಾಗಿರುವ ಸಂಕಷ್ಟ ನಿವಾರಿಸಲು ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ನರೇಂದ್ರ ಮೋದಿ ಅವರು ಮಧ್ಯಸ್ಥಿಕೆ ವಹಿಸುವಂತೆ ಕೋರಿ ಮಾಜಿ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ಹೆಚ್.ಡಿ ದೇವೇಗೌಡರು ಪತ್ರ ಬರೆದಿರುವುದನ್ನು ನಾನು ಸ್ವಾಗತಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ.
ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತ ಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ನಾಡಿಗೆ ಆಗುತ್ತಿರುವ ಅನ್ಯಾಯವನ್ನು ತಪ್ಪಿಸಲು ಮೋದಿ ಅವರು ಮಧ್ಯಸ್ಥಿಕೆ ವಹಿಸಿ… https://t.co/pfy7J1Oo6B
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) September 25, 2023
He said he believed that Modi would accept the request of Deve Gowda and call for talks soon. Siddaramaiah also urged the other senior leaders of JD(S), the Karnataka BJP, and MPs of the party to pressure Modi for intervention.
Siddaramaiah also requested that a delegation of leaders of all parties of the state meet the prime minister as soon as possible.
“The state of Karnataka has a history of its political parties forgetting their differences and trying to solve problems together to protect the land, water, and language. I believe that the BJP will follow this legacy, like the JD(S) party,” he said.
Mandya continues to simmer
Meanwhile, the protests against the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu continued in the Mandya district of Karnataka.
Farmers and various pro-Kannada organisations staged a sit-in at the Sanjaya Circle at the district headquarters demanding justice.
Holding placards and banners, the protesters raised slogans asking the Karnataka government to stop the release of water to the neighbouring state.
They alleged that there was inadequate water in the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam for drinking water supply, let alone meeting the irrigation requirements of farmlands in the agriculture-dominated district.
The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and Cauvery Water Rakshana Horata Samiti have been spearheading the increasingly intense agitations taking place for the past few days.
Last week, the CWMA directed Karnataka to continue releasing 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day for another 15 days, after the CWRC made a similar recommendation.
The Supreme Court refused to interfere with orders of the CWMA and the CWRC, following which protests erupted in different parts of Karnataka.
The state has been maintaining that it is not in a position to release water, taking into account its own requirement for drinking water and irrigation of standing crops in the Cauvery basin areas, as there has been water scarcity due to deficient monsoon rain.