Karnataka government under fire for supplying Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu amidst farmer protests, political criticism

Tamil Nadu has already filed a plea in the Supreme Court asking it to direct Karnataka to immediately release 24,000 cusecs of water daily.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Aug 17, 2023 | 2:38 AM Updated Aug 20, 2023 | 1:32 PM

Karnataka Tamil Nadu Cauvery Water Dispute

Amidst opposition from agrarians, the Karnataka government started releasing over 11,000 cusecs of water from the Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) water reservoir to Tamil Nadu on Tuesday, 15 August. That is around 2.85 tmcft per month.

The Tamil Nadu government has already filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking it to direct the Karnataka government to immediately release 24,000 cusecs of water every day to save the standing paddy crops in the state.

On 4 August, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin penned a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his immediate intervention and instruction to the Karnataka government to release their due share of water from the Cauvery river.

In the letter, Stalin said the Karnataka government had released only 11.6 tmcft of water instead of 40.4 tmcft between 1 June and 31 July this year.

After the Tamil Nadu government filed a petition before the apex court, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar stated that the state government would release 10 tmcft of water to the neighbouring state.

In accordance, the Karnataka government started releasing water to Tamil Nadu from the KRS dam on Wednesday. It released 5,243 cusecs of water on Wednesday morning. However, the volume increased to 11,602 cusecs in the evening.

According to the Karnataka Natural Water Disaster Monitoring Centre: “The current water storage in the KRS dam stands at 32.82 tmcft, against the maximum capacity of 49.45 tmcft. The reservoir is receiving an inflow of 3,078 cusecs, and the outflow stands at 11,602 cusecs.”

According to the 2018 Supreme Court verdict, Tamil Nadu was allocated 404.25 tmcft of the total 740 tmcft of water in the Cauvery river, while Karnataka was allocated 284.75 tmcft, Kerala was allocated 30 tmcft, Puducherry was allocated 7 tmcft, and environment protection 10 tmcft.

Also read: Dissent in Karnataka Congress over Siddaramaiah’s MLC nominees

Shivakumar defends water release

Amidst the protest from the farmers, Shivakumar, who holds the Water Resources portfolio, defended the state government’s decision to release water to Tamil Nadu.

Shivakumar told reporters on Wednesday: “The KRS dam’s control is not in our hands; it is in the hands of the Central government. Doesn’t Bommai know about this law? Politics should be done in only certain matters, not in all matters.” The reference was to BJP leader and former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai.

“Our Congress government is committed to safeguarding the interests of the state’s farmers. After becoming the minister, I have already granted permission twice to release water for crops,” said the deputy chief minister.

“The people of Tamil Nadu asked for 27 tmcft of water, but we have not released the demanded quantum of water,” said Shivakuma, confirming that the Karnataka government would release only 10 tmcft to the neighbouring state.

He continued: “If we act as per our wishes, we might have to face the court. Tamil Nadu boycotted the Cauvery Tribunal meeting recently. Is it possible to continue the conflict? Those in the government should consider all options. We must consult legal experts and act accordingly. If not, we will have to face even greater losses.”

Asked about the ongoing protests by farmers on the issue, he responded, “The farmers that are protesting are our farmers; it’s their right. Farmers can also file applications in court. There have been several legal battles in the past.”

He added: “There has been relatively less rainfall this year compared to the last 30-40 years. We always stood by our state’s farmers and upheld the law, even during such challenging times. That is why we released water to show respect to both our farmers and the law.”

It may be noted that both the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — in power in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, respectively — are part of the INDIA alliance for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, but have not had any cordial takes on the matter.

Also read: Karnataka Congress to revamp leadership

Bommai’s stand

Taking an exception to the release of water to Tamil Nadu from the KRS dam, Bommai urged Siddaramaiah to immediately stop the release of water to the neighbouring state in the interest of Karnataka and its farmers.

After the Tamil Nadu government filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking it to direct the Karnataka government to release water from the KRS and Kabini dams, Bommai wrote a letter to Siddaramaiah on 14 August, urging him not to release water as the state was facing a severe water shortage.

In the letter, Bommai pointed out: “On 1 June, a total of 24.352 tmcft of water was present in four reservoirs (of the Cauvery basin) in Karnataka. Similarly, there was 69.77 tmcft in the Mettur reservoir in the Salem district, and 16.653 tmcft in the Bhavani Sagar reservoir in the Erode district of Tamil Nadu.”

He also said: “Additionally, it’s been reported through media sources from the Biligundlu measurement centre that, as of 8 June, 14.054 tmcft of water flowed from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. In total, 83.831 tmcft of water reached the Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu this year.”

Bommai continued: “Around 32 tmcft of water is required for the cultivation of 1 lakh acres of Kuruvai crops in Tamil Nadu. However, on 7 August 7, Tamil Nadu used 60.97 tmcft of water for Kuruvai cultivation, which exceeds the allocation mandated by the Cauvery Water Tribunal’s order.”

The former chief minister also said in his letter: “The release of water from four of our dams is causing a shortage of drinking water for both the residents and farmers in Bengaluru City, and urban and rural areas in the Cauvery basin. Similarly, there is also a water shortage for Kharif crops in the Cauvery watershed area. This situation is causing distress to the people and farmers of Karnataka.”

He added: “As Tamil Nadu is receiving good rains due to the southwest and northeast monsoon, it is impossible for us to release water, as the reality is that we need to stand firm on this issue. I urge myself and others to hold a strong position on this factual aspect.”

Taking on Siddaramaiah

Criticising the government for releasing water to Tamil Nadu, Bommai told reporters on Wednesday: “The Karnataka government’s failure to protest against this and immediately releasing water upon filing a case in the Supreme Court is an unjustifiable offence.”

He added: “Without first providing water to the farmers of the state, you are storing our state’s farmers’ share in the dam and delaying the decision to give water. Now, you are exacerbating the situation by diverting our state’s farmers’ water to Tamil Nadu.”

He continued: “Chief Minister Siddaramaiah stated that it was not possible to release Cauvery water, yet the deputy chief minister-led Water Resource Department released water to Tamil Nadu the very next day. There is no consensus within the state government regarding the management of Cauvery water, and the capability to safeguard our state’s water resources is not evident.”

Bommai appealed: “The Karnataka government should immediately halt the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and present the actual situation in the state before the Supreme Court. The welfare of the farmers of our state must be a priority in this matter.”

Also read: MK Stalin assures relief measures for Cauvery delta farmers

Farmers protest in Mandya

Condemning the state government’s decision to release water to Tamil Nadu, farmers have launched a protest in Srirangapatna in the Mandya district.

The agrarians demanded on Wednesday that the Karnataka government immediately stop the release of water, and cautioned of intensifying their agitation if that did not happen.

Since the onset of the southwest monsoon in Karnataka, South Karnataka — where the Cauvery river flows — recorded a 19-percent rain deficit. It received 151 mm rain against the traditional rain of 186 mm since 1 June, according to the KSNDMC.

Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers’ Association President Kurbur Shantkumar told South First: “It is shameful that in a bid to develop a good relationship with the Tamil Nadu government, the Siddaramaiah government is sidelining the interests of farmers of the state by releasing water to the neighbouring state.”

He added: “I admit that there is an apex court order to release a certain amount of water to Tamil Nadu, but it does not apply when the state itself is in distress. The farmers in the Cauvery basin are in severe distress, but the state government is least bothered.”

Taking a dig at the Mekedatu Padayatra, which was organised by the Congress in 2022, Shantkumar pointed out: “The Congress carried out a padayatra demanding that the Karnataka government implement the Mekedatu project. After it came to power, the Siddaramaiah government neither allocated funds to it nor uttered a word about the project. The padayatra was just a political drama by the grand old party.”