SC orders immediate release of Cauvery water to save Tamil Nadu’s standing crops

State claims it has lost a third of its standing crops and that remaining crops on 600,000 ha need to be irrigated at once

By Soma Basu
Published: Tuesday 05 February 2013

The Supreme Court has directed Karnataka to release 2 tmc (thousand million cubic feet) water from the Cauvery river to lower riparian state Tamil Nadu and asked the Central Water Commission to file report on the water requirement of the two states fighting over river water sharing.

A bench headed by justice R M Lodha asked the Commission to form a three-member expert body that will visit the states. It also directed the agency to file a respond within two days and posted the matter for Thursday. "Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu is permitted 2 tmc (one cubic foot equals 0.0283 cubic metre) water from storage to save standing crops. Irrespective of the report of the expert committee, Karnataka shall compensate Tamil Nadu by releasing 2 tmc water," the bench said.

The court was hearing Tamil Nadu's plea demanding compensation for crop damage and immediate release of 12 tmc water. Tamil Nadu claims that failure by its neighbour state to release water has resulted in damage to its standing crops.

Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior counsel C S Vaidyanathan sought 9 tmc of water for the state's standing crops, spread over 600,000 hectares (ha). He said that a third of the standing crops spread over 300,000 ha had had perished due to drought and the remaining crops on 600,000 ha need to be irrigated at once to save it.

Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, contended that 40 per cent of standing crops had been harvested and the rest was about to be harvested. Thus, Tamil Nadu needs no water for irrigation.

Vaidyanathan responded by alleging that the data submitted by Karnataka was false. At this juncture, Justice Lodha said: "You (Tamil Nadu) may get more. Why you want in piecemeal?"

Last month, the Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC) had said that since current storage level in Karnataka was sufficient only to meet the state's drinking water requirements and that it was not in a position to release water to Tamil Nadu.
The Cauvery river originates in Karnataka and meanders its way over almost 800 km in Tamil Nadu. Being the upper riparian state, Karnataka can control how much water is released downstream to Tamil Nadu. Earlier, on December 5, the Supreme Court had directed Karnataka to release 10,000 cusecs of Cauvery water daily to its neighbouring state and asked CMC to hold a meeting to decide the amount of water required by each state.

The court is hearing petitions by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rooted in the September 19, 2012 interim order of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA), directing Karnataka to give 9,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu daily till October 15.
The order of CRA, headed by the prime minister, was to come into force on September 20. The apex court on September 28 rapped Karnataka for not complying with the direction of CRA.

After calling for the expert committee, the court hauled up the Central government for not publishing in the official gazette the Cauvery River Water Disputes Award, finalised February 5, 2007. The court directed the Centre to publish it at the earliest and not later than February 20.


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