Kaveri River Water Dispute: In-depth Overview

Kaveri river dispute

Blog: Kaveri River Water Dispute

The Cauvery water dispute is a prolonged and intricate water-sharing dispute between the Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as well as other governments that have stakes in the river’s water, including Kerala and Puducherry. The issue is on the fair allocation of water from the Cauvery River, which runs through these states and is a crucial resource for agriculture, drinking water, and several other uses.

What are the geographical aspects of the River Kaveri?

One of the largest rivers in southern India is the Cauvery (sometimes written Kaveri), and the geology of this river is a key factor in the conflict over water use between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

  • Origin: Cauvery River’s source is in Karnataka’s Western Ghats. Its origin lies in Talakaveri, a location in the Brahmagiri Hills of Karnataka’s Coorg district. A little spring that feeds into the river first appears at a height of roughly 1,337 meters (4,386 feet) above sea level.
  • Course: The river travels through the Deccan Plateau mostly in a southeasterly direction. It enters the state of Tamil Nadu after passing through several significant towns and cities, including Mysore and Bangalore in Karnataka.
  • Area of Basin: The Cauvery River’s basin spans a region of about 81,155 square kilometres. This basin area spans parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well as more modestly sized chunks of Kerala and Puducherry.
  • Tributaries: Numerous main and minor streams flow into the Cauvery. The Kabini River, Hemavati River, Shimsha River, and Arkavathi River are a few of the larger tributaries. These tributaries help the Cauvery Basin’s overall water flow and resources.
  • Delta: The Cauvery River creates the Cauvery Delta, a lush delta region in Tamil Nadu. There are many farms and places of cultivation in this delta, which is a fruitful location for agriculture.

What is the historical background behind the Kaveri River Water Dispute?

  • During pre-colonial times, the area was ruled by several princely states and kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Mysore and the Madras Presidency. Frequently, local agreements and understandings served as the foundation for the water-sharing arrangements.
  • The first official water-sharing agreement was made in 1892 between the Madras Presidency and the royal kingdom of Mysore. This agreement gave Mysore permission to construct irrigation systems along the Cauvery River. It did not, however, specify precise water-sharing ratios.
  • Tensions were raised in 1910 as a result of the building of a dam at Kannambadi in the Mysore state. Concerned about the potential effects on downstream water availability, the Madras Presidency suggested building the Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu.
  • In 1913-1914, Sir H.D. Griffin was chosen to serve as the arbitrator when the dispute was sent to arbitration. Based on the terms of the 1892 agreement, the award permitted Mysore to construct a dam that could hold up to 11 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) of water.
  • An agreement was struck between Mysore and the Madras Presidency in 1924. This agreement gave Mysore permission to construct the Krishnarajasagara Dam with a maximum storage capacity.
  •  After India earned its independence in 1947 and states were subsequently reorganized along linguistic lines, the problem took on new dimensions as territory changed hands. Kodagu (Coorg) was integrated into Mysore, which eventually changed its name to Karnataka.
  • By the 1950s, As Tamil Nadu and Karnataka became more aware of the value of water for industrial, drinking, and agricultural requirements, the conflict grew more heated. Water became more in demand as industrialization and population growth occurred.
  • From 1986 through 1990, talks between the states failed to produce a deal. In 1990, the Indian government established a tribunal to resolve the water-sharing conflict.
  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal issued its decision in 2007, giving specific water amounts to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Due to Tamil Nadu’s reliance on the current usage pattern, more water was allotted to the state.

What is the role of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in resolving this issue?

The Government of India established the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) as a judicial body to resolve the water-sharing dispute over the Cauvery River between the riparian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry. Its main duty was to resolve the argument and offer a binding decision regarding the disputed Cauvery River water allotment problem.

The roles and functions of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal are as follows?

  • Adjudication: The CWDT was responsible for adjudicating the Cauvery water dispute after hearing the arguments, accusations, and counterclaims of all the riparian governments involved. To come to a fair water-sharing agreement, it considered past agreements, water usage trends, geographical considerations, and other pertinent criteria.
  • Water Allocation: The main goal of the CWDT was to divide up the Cauvery River’s water supply among the member states. It aimed to ensure the sustainability of the river and its resources while assuring a fair and equal distribution that took into account the requirements and interests of each state.
  • Guidelines for sharing: The CWDT set guidelines for sharing water during both prosperous and difficult years. Distress years are those with lower rainfall and possibly less water availability compared to normal years, which are defined as times of regular rainfall. The tribunal sought to offer a framework for water sharing under varied conditions.
  • Resolution of Disputes: In addition to allocating water, the CWDT has the power to settle various disagreements and problems involving the waters of the Cauvery River that might develop among the riparian states.
  • Conclusion: The CWDT’s final order resolved the water-sharing dispute in a way that was legally binding. To reduce disputes and misunderstandings, its decision specified the precise water amounts that each state would get during normal and difficult years.

How is the water going to be divided among the states?

  • The Cauvery was deemed a national asset by the SC in 2018, and the water-sharing agreements reached by the CWDT were mostly preserved. The SC also lowered the amount of water allotted to Tamil Nadu from Karnataka.
  • Karnataka would receive 284.75 trillion cubic feet (tmcf), Tamil Nadu 404.25 tmcf, Kerala 30 tmcf, and Puducherry 7 tmcf, according to the SC.
  • Additionally, it instructed the Center to alert the Cauvery Management Scheme. To put the judgment into effect, the central government published the “Cauvery Water Management Scheme” in June 2018. This scheme established the “Cauvery Water Management Authority” and the “Cauvery Water Regulation Committee.”

What is the way forward to resolve the issue?

  • Negotiations and dialogue: To address each state’s individual water needs, concerns, and potential solutions, all parties should participate in direct and positive negotiations. A cooperative strategy can promote communication and trust between the parties.
  • Scientific Data and Analysis: It is essential for making well-informed judgments to rely on reliable and current scientific data regarding river flows, rainfall patterns, and water availability. Independent specialists can contribute by offering objective analysis to direct conversations.
  • Innovative Water Management: Investigating cutting-edge water management strategies can aid in maximizing the use of water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses. This can entail encouraging the use of water-wise farming techniques and making investments in water storage and conservation methods.
  • Environmental considerations: It’s crucial to acknowledge the river’s ecosystems’ environmental stability. Practices for managing water sustainably should strive to preserve the overall health of the river basin while taking ecological effects into account.