Why Tamil Nadu is on the boil again over Cauvery water

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Why Tamil Nadu is on the boil again over Cauvery water

The central government is dragging its feet on framing a scheme for sharing Cauvery waters as per the Supreme Court’s order.

The Cauvery water sharing dispute has come to a boil in Tamil Nadu once again over the past two weeks. With the centre dragging its feet on framing a scheme for sharing the river’s waters as per the Supreme Court’s order, the state has witnessed massive protests, which have led to Indian Premier League matches being shifted out of Chennai.

What was the Supreme Court’s order?

On 16 February, the Supreme Court asked the centre to frame a scheme within six weeks to implement a formula for sharing Cauvery water. After the deadline had passed, the centre moved the apex court seeking another three months to finish the task. On its part, Tamil Nadu moved a contempt petition against cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha and Union water resources secretary U.P. Singh for failing to abide by the order. On 9 April, the court asked the centre to submit a draft scheme by 3 May.

What is Karnataka’s argument against a board?

Though the Supreme Court largely upheld the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) award of 2007, it reduced Tamil Nadu’s share by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet. Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah had argued that a ‘scheme’ does not mean a board, as claimed by Tamil Nadu, but a ‘method’ to follow the orders of the apex court. However, the court clarified that a scheme ultimately must provide for a board.

What is the Cauvery Management Board?

The Union government set up CWDT in 1990 to look into the disagreement. The tribunal delivered its verdict in 2007. Apart from the water allocation between states—Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry—the tribunal also ordered that a Cauvery Management Board (CMB) be set up to implement its order. Unhappy with the order, Karnataka filed a review petition. In May 2013, the apex court issued an interim order for the Union government to establish a supervisory committee to implement CWDT’s order until the formation of CMB.

How long has this dispute raged?

While it is believed that the dispute dates back to the 11th century, it can be traced back to the 19th century as a fight between the then princely state of Mysore and Madras presidency. When Mysore decided to construct a dam in 1910, Madras objected to it and an agreement with a 50-year validity was struck in 1924 which allowed construction of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam in Mysore. After the reorganization of states in 1956, the dispute intensified as Karnataka planned to construct four more reservoirs across Cauvery’s four tributaries. Once the 1924 agreement expired, the issue escalated and led to CWDT’s formation in 1990.

Is this India’s only water sharing dispute?

No. Some of the other ongoing ones include Punjab and Haryana fighting over the Ravi-Beas, the Mahadayi dispute between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, and the Krishna water disagreement between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

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