Karnataka refuses to release Cauvery water, cites drought conditions; farmers withdraw protest

The reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin have only 54 percent water storage. KRS Dam has 20.83 tmc against the maximum capacity of 49.45 tmc.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Sep 15, 2023 | 5:49 PMUpdated Sep 15, 2023 | 5:56 PM

Karnataka refuses to release Cauvery water, cites drought conditions; farmers withdraw protest

Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has told the Union government that the state is not in a position to comply with the order of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC), which directed it to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day.

Siddaramaiah made his stand clear to the Central government in a letter written on Wednesday, 13 September, and made the letter public a day later.

Welcoming the state government’s stand, various farmer associations — including the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha — have withdrawn their protest.

Explainer: Unraveling the over-a-century-old Cauvery river dispute

Siddaramaiah’s letter

Siddaramaiah wrote the letter to Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat announcing the Karnataka government’s stand on the recent CWRC order.

The committee, in a meeting with officials from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in Delhi on 12 September, directed the Karnataka government to ensure 5,000 cusecs of water every day to Tamil Nadu for the next 15 days.

In his three-page letter to the Shekhawat, Siddaramaiah stated that Karnataka was not in a position to release water to Tamil Nadu.

He highlighted the ground situation such as monsoon failure, drinking water and irrigation issues, water unavailability in four reservoirs of the Cauvery River basin, and other issues in the letter.

Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, who holds the Water Resources portfolio, also met Shekhawat in Rajasthan on Thursday night.

He requested the Union minister to send a technical team of the CWRC and the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to understand the ground reality in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka.

Also read: Karnataka is releasing Cauvery water to TN, SC is informed

‘Not in a position to release water’

A day after CWRC directed Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu, Siddaramaiah — as decided in an all-party meeting — penned a letter to Shekhawat stating that Karnataka was not in a position to release water to the neighbouring state.

In the emergency all-party meeting held at Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday, the chief minister announced that he would write a letter to the Ministry of Jal Shakti and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.

Siddaramaiah said in the letter: “Considering the prevailing drought conditions in talukas of the Cauvery River basin in Karnataka, the availability of water in the reservoirs of Karnataka and drinking water for human and livestock, industrial and irrigation requirement from this month to the end of water year, Karnataka is not in a position to release any more water.”

He added: “The inflow into Karnataka reservoirs this monsoon has been only 104.273 tmc in comparison to the last 30 years’ average of 228.79 tmc. The state has a commitment of 106.20 tmc, comprising of 70.20 tmc for irrigation of the existing crops 33 tmc for drinking water from September 2023 to July 2024 and 3 tmc for industrial uses.”

The Congress leader continued: “It has a storage of 53.287 tmc in four reservoirs as of 11 September and incoming are lesser. Evidently, this quantity is not sufficient to meet its own requirements. The weather forecast for the next two weeks paints a grim picture.”

Siddaramaiah added: “Tamil Nadu has used a whopping 99.76 tmc in the last 19 days. The neighbouring state claims that it has only 5.60 lakh acres for irrigation as of 28 August, 2023, is misleading and is not correct. Karnataka does not benefit from the North-East Monsoon. The indications are that the North-East monsoon rainfall is normal. The live storage at Mettur reservoir is around 24.233tmc. If the additional flow of 60 tmc is taken into consideration, then Tamil Nadu has sufficient water to meet the remaining requirements if the previous distress years are referenced.”

Highlighting the drought situation in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah appealed to Shekhawat to reconsider the CWRC order.

Related: TN, K’taka upset over order to release 5,000 cusecs of Cauvery water

‘I hope we will get justice’

Exuding confidence that Karnataka would get justice, Shivakumar asserted on Friday while speaking to ANI in Bengaluru: “We are preparing ourselves for the Supreme Court and CWMA.”

He added: “We will present the facts before the central authorities. Looking at the situation, I hope, we will get justice.”

Karnataka Tamil Nadu Cauvery River DK Shivakumar

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar (right) calls on Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat over Cauvery River issue in Rajasthan on Thursday night. (Supplied)

Shivakumar met Shekhawat in Rajasthan on Thursday and submitted the chief minister’s letter to him on the Cauvery dispute.

“I have presented our case that it is very difficult for Karnataka to release water. We have also requested to send a team to the state to inspect the ground reality in the Cauvery River basin,” he said on Friday.

According to Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Centre (KSNDMC): “The reservoirs in the Cauvery river basin have only 54 percent water storage.”

It noted: “The KRS Dam has 20.83 tmc against the maximum capacity of 49.45 tmc.”

The report also said: “The inflow stands at 3,661 cusecs and outflow is 4,738 cusecs. The Hemavathi, Harangi, and Kabini reservoirs have water storage around 49, 97, and 77 percent, respectively.”

Related: Karnataka under fire for supplying Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu 

Farmers withdraw protest

As the Siddaramaiah government cleared its stand before the Union government that it would not release water to Tamil Nadu, farmer associations across the Cauvery basin withdrew their protests.

The farmer associations — including the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and the Melukote MLA Darshan Puttannaiah — had launched indefinite protests against the government and Central authorities across Mandya after the state began complying with the order of the CWRC and the CWMA and began releasing water to Tamil Nadu.

Melkote MLA Darshan Puttannaiah told South First: “We have withdrawn the protest as the chief minister announced the government’s stand in the all-party meeting. There is no point in continuing protest as the government has stopped releasing water.”

He added: “Essentially, we don’t have sufficient water for drinking. We need more water for irrigation and drinking purposes. The monsoon has completely failed in Karnataka resulting in poor inflows to reservoirs.”

He continued: “Tamil Nadu has many advantages over Karnataka. They have enough water as another monsoon is nearing in October. They get two monsoons, but we get only one, which has also failed completely. They are asking water for a third crop, while we are demanding for the first crop.”