Protests feared in Karnataka; government beefs up security in the river basin delta areas and around KRS reservoir near Mysore
In spite of loud protests from Karnataka leaders, the Central government has bowed to the Supreme Court orders to notify the Cauvery tribunal award.
The award was notified on February 20, six years after the tribunal announced it. According to the award, Karnataka is to release 182 thousand million cubic feet or tmc ft (1 TMC equals 28.3 billion litres) water to Tamil Nadu. In addition, Tamil Nadu is to get 10 tmc ft water for environmental purposes. Tamil Nadu will have to release 7 tmc ft to Puducherry. This is now meant to settle once and for all the ongoing tussle between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the waters of the Cauvery river. The Karnataka government has been opposing the notification of the award while Tamil Nadu has been pressing for its notification.
Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, constituted on June 2, 1990, had passed the final award on February 5, 2007 but the award was not implemented as the Centre did not notify it in the official gazette. Ticking off the Centre for "flouting the law" for the past five years, the Supreme Court on February 4 had set a February 20 deadline to notify Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award, saying it has no discretion or choice but to do so.
The notification, which was issued as per the Supreme Court direction that set the deadline of February 20, will come into effect within 90 days. The notification was issued on February 19 and sent for publication in the Gazette. It was made available to the public Wednesday.
Once a gazette notification is issued, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) chaired by the prime minister and the Cauvery Monitoring Committee will cease to exist. They will be replaced by the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee. As the Karnataka Assembly goes to polls May, the Centre's notification is likely to create trouble for the Congress.
Legal wrangle far from over
Sources maintained that the legal battle on the water sharing in court will continue as the Supreme Court is yet to decide on the fate of the petitions filed by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu against the final award.
Farmers and Kannada organizations had planned protests ahead of the notification. The government has stepped up security in the Cauvery basin delta areas and prohibitory orders have been put in place around the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir near Mysore.
Eight reservoirs in Cauvery basin—Hemavathy, Harangi, Kabini and Krishnarajasagara in Karnataka, Lower Bhavani, Amaravathy, Mettur in Tamil Nadu and Banasurasagar in Kerala—will come under the monitoring of the Cauvery Management Board.
Hailing the gazetting of the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) by the Central government, CPI leader D Pandian said it was a victory for Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Pandian said DMK could not claim credit for the Central government's action as it was not able to do this all these years, despite the party's Parliament members occupying Cabinet positions in the Central government. However, Pandian said the sharing of river waters should not be looked at merely as an issue between two states, but as a national issue affecting food production.
"If the tribunal's order is not implemented properly, it will not only affect the relationship between two states but also the relationship with the Central government," Pandian remarked.
Prior to the notification, Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar had led an all-party delegation to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi Monday and urged him not to notify the award. But the Central government was left with little option but to notify the award as the Supreme Court February 4 directed it to do so by Feb 20. The tribunal estimates availability of water in the Cauvery basin at 740tmc ft.