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Votes Flowing Cauvery

Cauvery was executed for Asia’s first mining industry Kolar gold Field (KGF) by Asia’s first hydroelectric power plant Shivanasamudra through Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) Dam.

Cauvery is not just a river it serves as life preserver for two crore people and drinking water for five crore people of Tamil Nadu. There is no river other than Cauvery to replace as main source of water in Tamil Nadu.

Origin of Cold War for Cauvery

Historically Tamil Nadu has wider view over Cauvery with regard to the creation of irrigation infrastructure in the period of 2nd Century AD created by Karikala Cholan (Peruvalatan Thirumavalan) while Karnataka has no such infrastructures. The Grand Anaicut which functions till date is the fourth-oldest water-diversion or water-regulator structures in the world and the oldest in India which is still in use.

The controversy over Cauvery could be traced from 11th century AD between Tamil Nadu ruler Chokkanath Naik of Madurai kingdom and Karnataka ruler Chikkadeva Wodeyar of Mysore who attempted to stop the flow of Cauvery by constructing a dam but it did not withstand the flood and declared as an engineering failure.

But the recent Cold war over Cauvery started in the year 1807, between the Madras Presidency (under British) and the state of Mysore(prince). British’s used the agitation of water dispute between two states and planned for the construction of dam for electrifying Kolar gold Field.

From 1892 to 1924 both states started planning of dams and shares of surplus water, which presided under British. The Madras presidency objected the construction of Krishna Raja Sagara dam citing its own plans of building a storage dam at Mettur with a capacity of holding up to 80 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet). Madras precedency asked detailed agreement for the sharing of surplus waters beyond the quantities which would be obstructed at Krishna Raja Sagara.

The dispute continues till Mysore and Madras arrived to an agreement where Mysore is allowed to build dam at Kannambadi village for storing 11-TMC of water to irrigate 1.1 lakh acres and Madras was allowed 3.01 lakh acres of irrigated land. Thereby the agreement facilitated the madras presidency, the freedom to build the Mettur dam.

Approximate river water allotments were as follows: 75% to Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, 23% to Karnataka, and the rest to Kerala. The agreement is to be valid for 50 years and reviewed thereafter. Based on this agreement, Karnataka builds the Krishnaraja Sagar dam.

Krishnaraja dam becomes functional in 1931 and the Mettur dam in 1934.

The 1892 agreement lasted for fifty years and then the war raged at the time of post-independence in 1956. Karnataka claimed that the river originated in Kodagu, hence they had better claim over the river. They argued that British agreement was not correct as it did not get its due share of water. Then Kerala and Puducherry started race for their share of the river water.

Tamilnadu claimed that they are heavily dependent on the river for millions of agricultural usages. Tamilnadu argued that if there was a change in the distribution of water the livelihood of farmers would be affected.

Karnataka silently started building four dams hemavati, Harangi, Kabini and Suvarnavathy 1960. Tamil Nadu, being the coastal state for cauvery, demanded that Karnatakas expansion of new dams will collapse irrigation severely. Finally, there has been a debate and tension between two states over the division of water.

The history of Congress betrayal of Tamil’s can be back-pedalled to 1964, when the Union as well as the two states—Karnataka(Mysore) and Tamil Nadu (Madras) were ruled by the Congress.  That was the year, when Mysore government proposed to build a dam across the Hemavati, one of the tributaries of the Cauvery, much against the letter and spirit of the 1924 agreement between the two states on sharing of Cauvery water.  Even the Congress-led government in Madras raised objections, the Congress government at the Union did not interfere. In 1971 the Union led by Indhira Gandhi allocated Rs 8 crores under non-plan expenditure for the Hemavati project.

The fact-finding committee formed in 1972 found, the utilization of Cauvery waters was 748 TMC where Tamil Nadu used 566 TMC, Karanataka used 177 TMC and kerala used 5 TMC.

 In 1976, C.C. Patel, Union irrigation secretary, issued a report stating existing utilisation of Cauvery waters was determined as 671 TMC comprising 489 TMC by Tamil Nadu, 177 TMC by Karnataka, and 5 TMC by Kerala; savings were to be made in water-use by both Tamil Nadu (100 TMC) and Karnataka (25 TMC) over a period of 15 years; those savings were to be redistributed as 4 TMC to Tamil Nadu, 87 TMC to Karnataka, and 34 TMC to Kerala; and an inter-State Cauvery Valley Authority was to be established. The ‘agreement’ was even announced in Parliament. Unfortunately, Tamil Nadu was temporarily under President’s rule and it was felt that the agreement should wait for a popularly elected government; and when an elected government(AIADMK) headed by M G Ramachandran took over, it refused to authorise the understanding because it was not considered wholly satisfactory.


According to International law the lower riparian has the right to claim the continued and uninterrupted flow of water from the territory of the upper riparian. Karnataka falsely argued for sharing the river in equal portions, stating the international rules. Karnataka argued that 94 percent could be divided equally between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The rest distributed to Kerala and Puducherry. But Tamil Nadu wanted to stick with 1924 agreement.

With Karnataka refusing to acknowledge the 1924 agreement, Tamil Nadu moved to the Supreme Court for setting up of a Cauvery River Water Tribunal. Though Indira Gandhi gave an indefinite assurance on the setting up of the tribunal, the Union government opposed it in the Supreme Court arguing that the tribunal could be set up only if the Union was convinced that the issue could not be settled through negotiations.

But, Indira Gandhi convinced Karunanidhi (Congress had alliance with DMK in 1971 elections) to withdraw the petition from the Supreme Court. An attempt at a negotiated settlement was made with the setting up of a committee under then Irrigation Minister VKRV Rao. When the Congress government in Karnataka pulled out and the talks collapsed all negotiations went in vain.

Both Indira Gandhi followed by Rajiv Gandhi, with the Congress-ruled Union government refused to accept the demand for setting up of a Cauvery Disputes Tribunal.

In 1986, a farmer’s association from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court demanding judgement for the Cauvery water dispute.

In February 1990, the Supreme Court, managed for negotiation between two states. But the failure of negotiations between the two states led to a forming of tribunal as ordered by Supreme Court. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal(CWDT) calculated the water inflow between 1980 and 1990. The tribunal directed Karnataka to supply 208 TMC for Tamil Nadu. The CWDT ordered Karnataka to stop increase of irrigated land area. Again Karnataka rejected the tribunals award and went to supreme court. Supreme court halted the tribunals order. In 1998 the Cauvery River Authority was formed and directed to implement the order of CWDT.

In 2002 Cauvery River Authority chaired by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee directs Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs (0.8 TMC) of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. The unhappy Tamil Nadu government moved to Supreme Court.

In 2005 Karnataka refuses to implement the distress sharing formula and rules out Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. After six-rounds of talks, farmers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu try to find a solution to the problem of water-sharing between the riparian States.

After 16 years, Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gives final award. Tribunal holds as valid the two agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the Governments of Madras and Mysore on the sharing of water to Tamil Nadu.

In 2006 The Tribunal orders that the waters of the river Cauvery be allocated in three States of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and U.T. of Puducherry for their beneficial uses as mentioned hereunder:

(i)The State of Kerala 30 TMC

(ii) The State of Karnataka 270 TMC

 (iii) The State of Tamil Nadu 419 TMC

 (iv) U.T. of Puducherry 7 TMC 726 TMC

In addition, we reserve some quantity of water for

 (i) Quantity reserved for environmental protection 10 TMC

(ii) Quantity determined for inevitable escapages into the sea 4 TMC 14 TMC Total (726 + 14)740 TMC

 In 2007 Karnataka protests tribunal final award and calls for State-wide bandh on the issue. Bangalore IT professionals protest against the award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

Tamil Nadu government led by Jayalalithaa demanded the publication of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in the Official Gazette of the Union government.

 In 2010   good rainfall in the catchment areas in Kodagu district resulted in the rise of water in Cauvery river. The Stanley reservoir, touches the full reservoir level (FRL) of 120 feet, bringing cheers to water managers in Tamil Nadu.


In 2012, Manmohan Singh directs Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu Both the governments termed it “unacceptable”. This is the first CRA meet since the UPA came to power at the Union in 2004. Supreme Court slams Karnataka government for not complying with PM’s direction at the CRA.

 In 2013 Karnataka Chief minister Siddaramaiah from ruling Congress party said water cannot be released as and when Tamil Nadu demands and says cannot release 134 TMC of water between June and September.

All the ruled and ruling parties are more concerned of the vote banks rather than the life of Farmers and people’s, who depend on Cauvery for drinking water.

Further it gets worse when supreme Court enhanced the share of Karnataka by 14.75TMC in accordance with 2007 where Karnataka was getting 270 TMC now it has increased to 284.75 TMC.

The Union government moving to the Supreme Court for the meaning of the word ‘scheme’ shows the intention of the Union to postpone the issue further. The Union asks three months for implementing its judgment because of the May2018 assembly elections in Karnataka. People of Tamil Nadu are hunted deliberately for the vote politics.

On 18 May 2018 The Supreme Court approved the Union’s draft Cauvery Management Scheme but the Union is yet to constitute a proper board.

The Union stated in its publication as it would appoint a temporary president for the Cauvery management Board. But the farmers of Tamil Nadu find the appointment of a temporary president wouldn’t help solve the issue as temporary president has no power to issue any order hence, appointment of temporary president is one more cheating effort of the government.

In Tamil Nadu, rice is cultivated in varied climates, soil and stress conditions under 9 different seasons with rice varieties of 5 different duration groups.

Rice Seasons of Tamil Nadu

S.noMonth of sowingSeasonDuration (Days)Districts
1.Dec – JanNavarai< 120Tiruvallur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Tiruchirapalli, Perambalur, Karur, Nagapattinam, Madurai, Theni, Salem, Namakkal, Dindigul, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore,Erode and Pudukkottai.
2.Apr – MaySornavari<120Tiruvallur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Namakkal, Dharmapuri
3.Apr – May May – JuneEarly Kar
<120Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi, Erode, Coimbatore, Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri.
4.June – JulyKuruvai<120Tiruchirapalli, Perambalur, Karur, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai, Erode
5.July – Aug.Early Samba130 to 135Tiruvallur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Salem, Namakkal, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Madurai, Theni, Ramanathapuram, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore, Erode, Pudukkottai, The Nilgiris
6.AugustSamba130 – 135 and >150All districts
7.Sep – OctLate Samba
130 – 135Tiruvallur, Madurai, Theni, Coimbatore, Erode
8.Sep -OctLate Pishanam130 – 135Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli , Thoothukudi
9.Oct – NovLate Thaladi115 -120Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Tiruchirapalli, Perambalur, Karur

The Kuruvai cultivation has not happened as seventh consecutive year, which is traditionally opened on June 12 due to non-release of water by Karnataka. Tamil Nadu farmers had to give-up the traditional Kuruvai cultivation and could raise only a single Samba crop.

Is Cauvery basin a deficit one?

The Irrigated area in Karnataka was around 0.3 million to 0.4 million acres but today, the irrigated area in Karnataka is over 2 million acres. The cultivation has increased 400 percent or 1.6 times.

The Irrigated area in Tamil Nadu was around 1.7 million to 1.8 million acres but today, the irrigated area has come down to 1.3 million acres. The cultivation has decreased 27 percent or – 0.5 times

The available water is only 740 TMC feet, but the water we need is around 1250 TMC.


Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Both adulterated Cauvery

Receiving the exact share of Cauvery will not only be the only solution for water shortage. The disaster in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is due to worst management and uncontrolled human interference in and around water sources.

Poor water management in cities

Bengaluru and Chennai are in a race in exploiting the rainwater harvesting technique, drilling the bore wells deeper and misusing ground water. Furthermore, Bengaluru carelessly wasting more water for transit.

Shift of rainfall patterns

Water availability in 2016 declined 30 percent in Karnataka and 49 percent in Tamil Nadu respectively due to irregular and below average rainfall. IndiaSpend, stated, “Extreme rainfall events in central India, the core of the monsoon system, are increasing and moderate rainfall is decreasing as a part of complex changes in local and world weather.” Where one mm rise in Bengaluru and Kolar and two mm fall in Cauvery basin in Karnataka. Proportionally the southwest monsoon from July to September in Tamil Nadu’s annual rainfall fell from 48 percent to 24 percent.

Karnataka (BCCI-K) Bangalore Climate Change Initiative- says the Cauvery basin will see a decline in rainfall by 0 to 20 percent in the 2020–2050 period. A larger crisis to be aroused due to smaller shares and raise the dispute in Cauvery without a plan to cope with smaller shares will surely intensify the dispute over the next few decades.

Politicization of Sand Mines

Political parties loot 20,000 crores from sand mining Cauvery, Palar, Vellar, Thenpennaiyar and Amravati in north and Union Tamil Nadu, Vaigai in the south and Bhavani in the west, leading to scarcity of drinking water and improper results in irregation. Karnataka has not sparred Kapila and Suvarnavathi for sand mining.

Continuous dropping in groundwater levels

The water level in Hasan district of Karnataka has decreased from 8.47 metres (m) to 15 m approximately 800–900 feet for water as opposed to 150 feet only five years ago. Only four out of 30 districts recorded a rise in average groundwater level in Tamil Nadu. The water level in Chennai has decreased from 4.68 m in 2010 to 5.63 m in 2015, and Coimbatore has the lowest at 13.12 m.

Industrial pollution and land Invasion

15 polluted rivers in Karnataka identified by The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The industrial effluents dumping into all major rivers including the Cauvery were stated to be the main reasons for pollution.

7 rivers Tamil Nadu were spotted as polluted, with five of them identified as hair-splitting by the CPCB. Noyyal, a tributary of the Cauvery, is deceased due to Effluents loaded with salt and dangerous chemicals, discharged by the textile dyeing industries in Tiruppur district of Tamil Nadu.

Migration of Tamil Nadu

The Kuruvai crop is virtually wiped out. Now the samba crop is totally dependent on northeast monsoon it is extremely unpredictable that how much crops could be saved; Tamil Nadu has become a rain-fed area.

The saddest part is farmers changing their jobs from farming to construction. The upcoming generation is largely dependent on abroad jobs from delta regions of Tamil Nadu.

Solution for Dispute

Co-riparian should be equally considered for major decisions in management of water resources

There is an immediate need to constitute a permanent dispute settlement body like the JRC, JCE of Indo-Bangladesh treaty, the Indus Commission, the US-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission etc. for the Cauvery dispute.

The permanent dispute settlement body should be autonomous board with more powers to control violating states as in Inter-State Water Dispute Act 1956.

 — Pratheesh – Ilanthamilagam Movement

 The references for the above article is listed below:

















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