Cauvery dispute – UPSC GS1

River Cauvery (Kaveri):
  • It is known as ‘Ponni’ in Tamil also known as Ganga of the south, and it is the fourth largest river of southern India.
  • It is a sacred river of southern India.
  • It rises on Brahmagiri Hill of the Western Ghats in southwestern Karnataka state, flows in a south easterly direction through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and descends the Eastern Ghats in a series of great falls and drains into Bay of Bengal through Pondicherry.
  • Some of its tributaries are Arkavathi, Hemavathi, Lakshmana Theertha, Shimsa, Kabini and Harangi.

The Dispute:
  • Historical Background:
    • As the river originates in Karnataka, flows through Tamil Nadu with major tributaries coming from Kerala and drains into Bay of Bengal through Pondicherry the dispute therefore involves 3 states and one Union Territory.
    • The genesis of the dispute is 150 years old and dates back to the two agreements of arbitration in 1892 and 1924 between the then Madras presidency and Mysore.
    • It entailed the principle that the upper riparian state must obtain consent of lower riparian state for any construction activity viz. reservoir on the river Cauvery.
  • Recent Developments:
    • From 1974, Karnataka started diverting water into its four newly made reservoirs, without the consent of Tamil Nadu resulting in a dispute.
    • To resolve the matter, the CWDT was established in 1990 which took 17 years to arrive at the final order (2007) on how Cauvery water should be shared between the 4 riparian states in normal rainfall conditions.
    • In distress years, a pro-rata basis shall be used, it instructed. The government again took 6 year and notified the order in 2013.
    • This was challenged in SC which directed Karnataka to release 12000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu prompting protests in the State.
    • The final verdict of the SC came in 2018 where it declared the Cauvery a national asset and largely upheld the water-sharing arrangements finalised by the CWDT and also reduced the allocation of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
    • As per the SC, Karnataka would get 284.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft), Tamil Nadu 404.25 tmcft, Kerala 30 tmcft and Puducherry 7 tmcft.
    • It also directed the Centre to notify the Cauvery Management Scheme. The central government notified the ‘Cauvery Water Management Scheme’ in June 2018, constituting the ‘Cauvery Water Management Authority’ and the ‘Cauvery Water Regulation Committee’.
Way Forward
  • The states need to shed the regional approach as the solution lies in cooperation and coordination, not in conflict.
  • The planning must be done at the basin level to make the solution sustainable and ecologically viable.
  • In the long term, there is a need to recharge the river through afforestation, river linking, etc and increased focus is needed on increasing water use efficiency viz. micro irrigation, awareness in people to prudently use water and water smart strategies.
Note: Use Cauvery dispute in :
  1. Answers on Federalism
  2. Answers on Inter State issue
  3. Answers on Tribunals
  4. Answers on legal system etc.
Related Notes:
  • Inter State River Disputes from Laxmikant

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