In a significant decision, the Karnataka Cabinet, led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, has decided to comply with the Supreme Court order on releasing water to Tamil Nadu. It has, at the same time, decided to push ahead with the Mekedatu dam and reservoir project that the neighbouring state opposes.
These were among the 22 subjects discussed in the Cabinet meeting held at the Vidhana Soudha on Friday, 22 September.
Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, who holds the water resources portfolio, told reporters in Bengaluru: “The advocate general and our legal team have given a detailed presentation of the facts of the Cauvery river water dispute. On an average, 3,000 to 3,500 cusecs is flowing (to Tamil Nadu), and inflow is around 8,000 cusecs.
“We have been told to comply with the apex court order till 28 September. Then, we will work on our strategy on the matter. We have protected all the farmers and will continue to do so. Those who are doing politics, let them continue. We will continue to work towards protecting the interests of farmers,” stated Shivakumar.
He also added that the Cabinet had decided to proceed with the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project.
Complying with SC order
A day after the Supreme Court directed Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu, the Siddaramaiah government decided to partially comply with the apex court order in the Cabinet meeting.
The Supreme Court, upholding the order of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), had on Thursday directed the Karnataka government to ensure 5,000 cusecs of water supply daily to Tamil Nadu till 28 September.
Despite having less water in the Cauvery river basin because of a failed Southwest Monsoon, the Siddaramaiah Cabinet agreed to comply with the apex court order and release water to the neighbouring state.
Announcing the Cabinet decision to the media, Shivakumar said: “Earlier, Tamil Nadu demanded 25,000 cusecs but the authority ordered the release of 10,000 cusecs and then it was reduced to 5,000 cusecs.”
“Senior SC advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who was representing Tamil Nadu in the Supreme Court, argued for the release of a minimum of 7,500 cusecs of water. Their plea has been rejected. We argued that it would be difficult for Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs. This plea has also been rejected.”
“Around 3,000 to 3,500 cusecs of water is already flowing. Whatever we do, the inflow will continue. The required water for our farmers will be facilitated. We will also save water for drinking purposes. This is our firm commitment,” reiterated the deputy chief minister.
The cabinet has decided to comply with SC order on releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu & at the same time also go ahead with its push for Mekedaatu balancing reservoir. https://t.co/9aDvFB5RwI
— Anusha Ravi Sood (@anusharavi10) September 22, 2023
Talks after 28 September
He continued: “It is true that the court has ordered to release 5,000 cusecs of water to the neighbouring state; however, to the apex court as much respect is due, must be given. We have not yet released 34 percent of water.”
On whether the government will hold talks with its counterpart Tamil Nadu, he said: “Now we will not; after 28 September 28, we will hold talks. We have requested the Union government to intervene in the matter.. there has to be a judge between the two states.
According to Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre: “The four reservoirs in Cauvery River basin have water storage around 53 percent. Krishnaraja Sagara (KRS) reservoir has recorded an inflow of 5,845 cusecs and outflow is 5,734 cusecs.”
“The water storage stands at 20.56tmc against the maximum capacity of 49.45tmc. The remaining three reservoirs Harangi, Hemavathi and Kabini have water storage of 91, 48 and 74 percent, respectively,” claimed KSNDMC reports.
To proceed with Mekedatu project
In another major decision, the Siddaramaiah-led Cabinet decided to proceed with the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project.
“The Tamil Nadu had orally appealed to discontinue the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project before the apex court. The previous government had submitted an affidavit on the matter. Though they had allocated ₹1,000 crore for the project but were not able to take up the work,” Shivakumar said.
“The apex court asked, what problem do you (Tamil Nadu) have? They (Karnataka) will develop the reservoir in their state. They will supply the allocated 177 tmc of water without fail. Why are you objecting to this project? They raised objection to this and also the court asked them to approach it if there were any qualms regarding this,” added the deputy chief minister.
He continued: “Therefore, we have decided to proceed with the project. The court has also directed the state to submit the relevant documents and approach the authority concerned and resolve the dispute at the authority itself. We will submit the proposal before the CWMA and proceed with the project.”
“There are some hurdles such as the environment clearances and Detailed Project Report at the Union government level. The government will file and work towards advancing with the project. The court has also realised that this project will help both the states. We will submit all the relevant documents and proceed with the project,” asserted Shivakumar.
Plan for drought-hit areas
In another major decision, the state Cabinet declared 195 talukas as drought-hit areas, accepting the recommendation of the sub-committee headed by Minister for Revenue Krishna Byre Gowda which had submitted a detailed report to the government recently.
Minister HK Patil told reporters: “Among them, 161 talukas are severely affected. The Revenue Department has estimated a loss of ₹30,432 crore due to drought.”
“A total of 39.74 lakh hectares of agricultural land has been affected due to drought in the state. The crop loss is estimated at ₹27,867.17 crore. Another 1.82 lakh hectares of horticulture land has been affected, and the loss is estimated at ₹2,565.7 crore,” detailed Patil.
Stating that the government would knock on the doors of the Union government seeking relief funds, he said: “We will submit a memorandum to the Union government on this. As per the NDRF (National Disaster Response Fund) norms, we are seeking ₹4,860.13 crore from the Union government.”
“Of the total relief funds, ₹3,824.67 crore is for agriculture crop loss, ₹206.39 crore for horticulture crop loss, ₹126.36 crore to set-up a fodder bank, ₹104.33 crore for cattle, and ₹25 crore for nutrition and medicine, ₹284.4 crore for rural drinking water, and ₹213.98 crore for urban drinking water,” elaborated Patil.
He also said that in two to three days, the chief minister and revenue minister will fly to Delhi to submit a memorandum to the Union government.
According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre: “The state is facing a rain deficit of 26 percent since the onset of the monsoon. The south and north regions have recorded 27 and 20 percent rain deficits, respectively. Malnad and coastal regions have reported 40 and 22 percent rain deficits, respectively.”