The Supreme Court on Thursday, 21 September, endorsed the decision of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) and the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to allocate 5,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu from 13 to 29 September, holding that the decision by the expert bodies was not based on “irrelevant and extraneous” grounds.
Declining an application by Tamil Nadu questioning the allocation of 5,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to it, a bench of Justice BR Gavai, Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha, and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra said: “We are of the considered view that the direction issued by CWRA and CWMA to release 5,000 cusecs of water is not on irrelevant and extraneous grounds.”
The bench noted that both the bodies consisted of experts on water resource management and agriculture.
No word on Karnataka plea for another reservoir
The bench also refused to say anything about Karnataka’s application seeking its nod to have another reservoir for the storage of water, which was opposed by Tamil Nadu stating that it would adversely impact the state in terms of getting water from the Cauvery river.
Karnataka, in its application, stated: “This water year of 2023-24 has begun on a bad note. The Southwest Monsoon, which feeds the catchment in Karnataka, has failed miserably. Even at the reservoir level, which covers a part of the catchment, the shortfall is 53.42 percent.”
“If the shortfall is considered up to the interstate border Biligundulu, where flows are accountable, shortfall and distress would be much more than 53.42 percent,” it added.
Questions the issue in allocation
Asking both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to return to the expert bodies — the CWRA and the CWMA — Justice Gavai queried senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi how the allocation of Cauvery water was impacted as the Cauvery Water Tribunal Award, as modified by the top court by its 16 February, 2018, judgement, was still applicable.
The bench told senior Rohatgi, who appeared for Tamil Nadu, that the state could challenge the decision of the expert bodies on Karnataka’s plea for another reservoir.
The bench upheld the allocation of 5,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu, as Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati told it that the allocation of Cauvery water was not just based on the calculation of shortfall in water due to less rainfall, but many other factors, and it was not the mathematical calculation based on the Cauvery Water Tribunal Award.
ASG Bhati told the bench that both expert bodies had domain experts from both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
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‘Entitled to the prescribed amount of water’
Rohatgi told the bench that as per the award modified by the top court in its 16 February, 2018 judgement, Tamil Nadu was entitled to 46 and 36 TMC of water (Thousand Million Cubic feet) in August and September, respectively.
He added that even if the shortfall in the rains were considered, Tamil Nadu should have got 19.15 TMC and 9.3 TMC of water in August and September, respectively.
This translates into 7,200 cusecs of water per day and the same was further reduced by 25 percent in the allocated 5,000 cusecs of water, he said.
Rohatgi said that Tamil Nadu needed water to irrigate standing crops on over five lakh acres of land.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Karnataka, told the bench that Tamil Nadu needed water for irrigation, whereas Karnataka needed it for irrigation as well as drinking purposes.
He said the Cauvery river met the drinking water requirements of Bengaluru, Mysuru and one more city.
Divan told the bench that besides Cauvery water, Tamil Nadu also gets the Northeast Monsoon.