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Tamil Nadu-Karnataka Cauvery Dispute

  • Published
    22nd Aug, 2023
Context

According to a recent update, Chief Justice of India (CJI) has assured Tamil Nadu that he would constitute a Bench to hear the State’s plea for the release of its allotment of Cauvery river water for the month of August.

Background
  • Tamil Nadu has moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to Karnataka to release 24,000 cusecs of Cauvery water forthwith from its reservoirs at Billigundulu starting from August 14.
  • Tamil Nadu also asked the court to direct the Cauvery Water Management Authority to ensure that the directions issued to Karnataka to release water to them were “fully implemented and the stipulated monthly releases during the remaining period of the current water year are fully given effect to by the State of Karnataka”.

Cauvery River Water Dispute:

  • The dispute involves 3 states and one Union Territorye. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Puducherry).
  • The genesis of the dispute is 150 years old and dates back to the two agreements of arbitration in 1892 and 1924 between the then Madras presidency and Mysore.
  • It entailed the principle that the upper riparian state must obtain consent of lower riparian state for any construction activity viz. reservoir on the river Cauvery.
  • To resolve the matter, the CWDT (Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal) was established in 1990 which took 17 years to arrive at the final order (2007) on how Cauvery water should be shared between the 4 riparian states in normal rainfall conditions.
  • CWDT was constituted by the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 4 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.

Cauvery River and its Tributaries:

  • The Cauvery River (Kaveri) is designated as the ‘Dakshi Bharat ki Ganga’ or ‘the Ganga of the South’.
  • Origin: The Cauvery River rises at an elevation of 1,341 m at Talakaveri on the Brahmagiri range near Cherangala village of Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka.
  • The total length of the river from origin to an outfall is 800 km.
  • It flows in a south-easterly direction for 705 km through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and descends the Eastern Ghats in a series of great falls.
  • Before emptying into the Bay of Bengal south of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu the river breaks into a large number of distributaries forming a wide delta called the “garden of southern India”
  • The Cauvery basin extends over states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Union Territory of Puducherry draining an area of 81 thousand Sq.km.
  • Its Tributaries:
    • Left Bank: the Harangi, the Hemavati, the Shimsha, and the Arkavati.
    • Right Bank: Lakshmantirtha, the Kabbani, the Suvarnavati, the Bhavani, the Noyil, and the Amaravati join from the right.
  • The river descends from the South Karnataka Plateau to the Tamil Nadu Plains through the Sivasamudram waterfalls (101 m high).

Role of Cauvery Water Management Authority (CMA):

  • It has been created as per the Cauvery Management Scheme earlier framed by Centre and approved by Supreme Court.
  • The CMA will be to secure implementation and compliance of the Supreme Court’s order in relation to “storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters”.
  • CMA will also advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency.
  • It will do so by promoting use of micro-irrigation, change in cropping patterns, improved farm practices and development of command areas.
  • The CMA will also prepare an annual report covering its activities during the preceding year.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 131: This article grants the original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of India in disputes between two or more states or between the Government of India and one or more states.
  • Such disputes can pertain to legal, constitutional, or any other matter.
  • The disputes brought under this article bypass the jurisdiction of any other court.
  • Article 262: This article deals with disputes related to water resources between states or between the Government of India and states.
  • It empowers Parliament to enact laws for the adjudication of disputes related to waters of inter-state rivers or river valleys.
  • However, if a state requests, the dispute can be referred to a tribunal for adjudication.
  • Interstate Council (Article 263): Although not directly dealing with disputes, Article 263 provides for the establishment of an Interstate Council to promote coordination and cooperation among states.
  • The President can establish such a council if it appears that a subject of common interest has arisen or is likely to arise in two or more states.
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