Protests in Karnataka after Supreme Court upholds CWMA order to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu

The four reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka have been left with only 53 percent of water as on 21 September.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Sep 21, 2023 | 9:45 PM Updated Sep 25, 2023 | 11:18 PM

Karnataka Tamil Nadu Cauvery Water Dispute

Farmers’ organisations and pro-Kannada groups took out protest demonstrations in Karnataka after the Supreme Court on Thursday, 21 September, upheld the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)’s order to release 5,000 cusecs of river water to Tamil Nadu till 28 September.

Besides several organisations, experts and elected people’s representatives, too, were opposing the Supreme Court upholding the directives of the CWMA and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) to provide water to Tamil Nadu.

Soon after the news of the Supreme Court’s stand on the contentious issue spread in the Cauvery basin, farmers’ organisations and pro-Kannada outfits took to the streets in Mysuru, Mandya, and Bengaluru. They urged the state government not to release water to Tamil Nadu.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his Cabinet colleagues, including Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar — who holds the water resources portfolio — met Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and explained the ground situation in Karnataka, reeling under a deficit monsoon.

The four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin have only 53 percent of water at the fag end of the Southwest Monsoon season.

The Karnataka leaders also sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convene a meeting involving Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry to resolve the issue.

However, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi urged the Karnataka government not to politicise the issue. He advised the government to hold talks with Tamil Nadu.

“The Congress government in Karnataka should talk to the DMK government in Tamil Nadu as the two parties are part of the INDIA bloc,” Joshi appealed to the Congress government.

Related: SC endorses CWRC, CWMA decision on allocating water to TN

Call for Mandya bandh

The Karnataka Jala Rakshana Samiti (KJRS) demanded the state government file a reconsideration application against the Supreme Court order. It said that “it will not agree until a distress formula is rolled out”.

After the Supreme Court verdict, the farmers held a meeting in Bengaluru to decide on their further course of action on Thursday evening.

“The state government should tell the court that it will not release water from the KRS Reservoir because the Northeast Monsoon will set over Tamil Nadu in the next few days,” Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association president Kurbur Shanthakumar told reporters in Bengaluru.

“The farmers and the common people are facing problems because of the political pressure exerted by the Union and state governments. The CWMA and CWRC should be abolished. They should work as independent organizations,” he demanded.

Shanthakumar called for framing norms for the new and independent organisation. “This committee should comprise experts from the Cauvery river basin in both states, and farmers. It should have autonomous authority to make decisions,” he said.

The famers’ leader also demanded to that DK Shivakumar be stripped of the water resources portfolio.

“Since the deputy chief minister has a good relationship with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, he is doing ‘water business’ with the latter. He should be sacked immediately from the water resource portfolio,” he said.

Shanthakumar also called for the resignation of Union Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman for not attending the meeting convened by the Karnataka government in Delhi on Wednesday.

The farmers’ organisations have also called for a bandh in Mandya on 23 September. Meanwhile, the farmers’ associations have invited all organisations, including from the film fraternity, for a meetings at Freedom Park in Bengaluru on Saturday.

Also read: CWMA orders Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu

Black day for Karnataka: KaRaVe

Pro-Kannada organisation Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KaRaVe) described Thursday as a “black day” and demanded the state not release water to Tamil Nadu in the interests of the farmers and people.

KaRaVe tool out a rally at Gandhinagar and asked the state government to remain firm and refuse water to Tamil Nadu. The police detained the outfit’s chief TA Narayana Gowda and several other activists.

Prominent farmers’ organisations such as Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene held a protest demonstration at Basaveshwara Circle in Mysuru.

Amidst slogans demanding justice, the protesters questioned the source of the water to be released, given the drought conditions existing in the talukas in the Cauvery basin.

Also read: Karnataka government identifies 195 talukas as drought-hit

BJP blames Congress 

BJP’s Karnataka unit leaders, including former chief ministers BS Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai, blamed the Siddaramaiah government for allegedly failing to tackle the Cauvery river issue and appealed to it to file a review petition before the Supreme Court.

“The Water Resources and Law Departments have failed to argue effectively before the apex court. The apex court gives the verdict based on the information provided by the state government,” Yediyurappa told reporters.

“The state government has completely failed in doing proper homework and in providing proper documents. I urge the chief minister to file a review petition before the Supreme Court and present the ground reality,” he said.

“Let the apex court send an expert team and assess the situation and water levels in the Cauvery river basin. Based on their ground report, whatever the order the higher court gives, we will comply with it,” the former chief minister also appealed to the government to hold talks with Tamil Nadu since the parties in power in both states belong to the same alliance.

Meanwhile, Bommai said Tamil Nadu has been illegally using the water. “This must be brought to the notice of the Supreme Court. Besides stating that there is not enough water in the Cauvery basin dams, the government should also mention that people for everywhere live in Bengaluru, an international city,” he said.

The former chief minister pointed out that a separate quota of water has been fixed for the state capital.

“This point must be presented before the apex court. Tamil Nadu will witness rain during the retreating monsoon whereas the rainy season has almost ended in Karnataka. This must be explained to the apex court. The state government now has to at least fight to preserve water for drinking water purposes,” he appealed.

He also said that the BJP did not want politicise the issue but the reality was that the crops were withering. The farmers must be provided ₹25,000 per acre as compensation, Bommai added.

Union Minister Joshi, too, blamed Karnataka for not presenting the issue properly to the CWMA.

Also read: IMD issues heavy rain and thunderstorm alert for Andhra, TN

Depleting water levels

The four reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka have been left with only 53 percent of water as of Thursday, 21 September.

According to Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), “The four reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin have only 60.88 tmc of water against the maximum storage of 114.57 tmc.”

“Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir is left with only 42 percent of water as water storage level stands at 20.56 tmc against the storage capacity of 49.45 tmc. The outflow stands at 5,735 cusecs and inflow at 5,336 cusecs,” the centre said.

“Harangi, Hemavathi and Kabini reservoirs are left with 93, 48 and 75 percent of water, respectively,” KSNDMC said.

Karnataka has been facing a 26 percent deficit in rainfall this monsoon. All 31 districts have recorded scanty rainfall. Malnad and South Karnataka have reported a deficit of 39 and 26 percent, respectively. Coastal and North Karnataka recorded 22 and 20 percent deficits, respectively.

“It is very devastating news. This is a big blow for Karnataka. It is not only farmers but also everybody who is dependent on Cauvery river. Over 80 percent of Bengaluru residents are dependent on this river,” Melukote MLA Darshan Puttannaiah told South First.

“The government should announce its stand at the earliest. It should take a firm decision to not to release water to Tamil Nadu in the interests of farmers, the people and the state. We will continue to protest until justice is served,” he added.

Earlier, Shivakumar explained to Union Minister Shekhawat that Tamil Nadu, despite being aware of the situation, used the opportunity for irrigating more crops.

He highlighted that Karnataka faced its first rainfall shortage in 123 years in August, and it was challenging to determine the quantity of water to be released to Tamil Nadu.

The state government had sought the support of all MPs from Karnataka on the issue.

Also read: Unraveling the century-old Cauvery river dispute

Water provided insufficient: TN 

Meanwhile, officials of the Tamil Nadu’s Department of Water Resources said the water supplied by Karnataka so far was not sufficient to save the standing crops in the Cauvery river basin.

“We need at least 100 TMC more for the successful kuruvai farming, an official said.

He expressed apprehension that Salem, Erode, Dharmapuri, and Karur districts, which get water from Mettur Dam, might face water scarcity if the monsoon fails.

The water level in Mettur dam stood at 39.54 feet on Thursday against its full level of 120 feet, with an inflow of 2,854 cusecs and discharge of 6,500 cusecs.

The catchment area in the Cauvery delta received scant rainfall during the monsoon, particularly in August and September.

The kuruvai crops are grown over an area of 360,000 acres in the delta region and the samba crops are also at risk due to water scarcity and unpredictable rainfall patterns, A Alagarsamy, the secretary of Delta Small Crops Framers’ Association, said.