By the year 1971, Karnataka, which contributes more than 53% of water into Kaveri river was irrigating in 6.74 lakh acres of land, while Tamilnadu with a contribution of around 31% of water into Kaveri river was irrigating in 23.60 lakh acres of land. Today, Karnataka irrigates in around 11.2 lakh acres of land while Tamilnadu does it in 29.4 acres of land almost 3 times that of Karnataka. In 1968, with permission when Karnataka tried taking up Haarangi and Kabini projects, Tamilnadu went to the Supreme court with objection. Fearing delay in judgement, Karnataka went for a compromise by giving in writing that the state won't store water for more than 6 months in these reservoirs and won't use such water either. When Tamilnadu's case came up for hearing in Supreme court, it argued that "The river Kaveri has been used by us for thousands of years but Karnataka has stopped giving any water to us by breaching the 1924 agreement with these dams. The farmers of Tamilnadu, it's agriculture and it's economy has suffered a great deal due to this stance of Karnataka. Now, Karnataka has gone a step further by building four dams, literally stopping Kaveri waters to us. This great injustice must be corrected at the earliest." The loud cry of Tamilnadu did convince the Kaveri Tribunal about it's case. However Karnataka's cry of historical injustice fell on the deaf ears of the tribunal. When Karnataka tried contending that Tamilnadu grows 3 crops an year while for Karnataka it's not even letting grow second crop, Tamilnadu argued that it has a heritage right over the waters. Tribunal bought into the argument of historical claims of Tamilnadu and didn't even bother to look at why Karnataka was not in a position to utilise the water all this while. It blindly termed all attempts of Karnataka as illegal.
Shri. Parasharan was arguing on behalf of Tamilnadu. (His speciality is he is arguing against Karnataka in Krishna, Kaveri and Kalasa Banduri disputes involving Karnataka). Karnataka appointed Shri. F.S.Nariman to argue it's case. Tamilnadu requested the tribunal to issue an interim judgement until the final judgement is made. The tribunal awarded 205 TMC of water per year to Tamilnadu based on the yearly flow of water from Karnataka to Tamilnadu. From the beginning whenever Tamilnadu accused Karnataka of not releasing any water, Karnataka contended that blame by showing the report of at least 252 TMC water measured at Biligundlu point. When Karnataka questioned the 205 TMC interim judgement, the tribunal rejected it by saying Karnataka was already releasing 252 TMC of water every year as measured at Biligundlu ! Then came the deadly blow to Karnataka with the final judgement of the tribunal on 5th of February 2007.
The final judgement of the Kaveri Tribunal!
- An important point observed in the final judgement was as 1892 and 1924 agreements were pretty old as well as signed after due discussions between the parties involved, they can't be termed as not applicable. Some aspects of the 1924 agreement were supposed to be reviewed after 1974 and hence the tribunal claimed to have done so now.
- 1892 and 1924 agreements will become null and void once final judgement is accepted.
- Ground water usage of any state in the basin can't be regarded as usage of Kaveri river water. ( Ground water level was high in Tamilnadu compared to Karnataka but this fact holds no relevance to the tribunal)
- The judgement doesn't talk about the distress formula in detail. If there is rain deficit, river water sharing should also be adjusted accordingly is what it says. This means if north west monsoon in Karnataka fails and Tamilnadu asks for it's share, the distress formula applies for just that season and in case, the north east monsoon succeeds, Tamilnadu will get a bonus as it benefits hugely from north east monsoon season compared to Karnataka. Karnataka has been arguing to take into account both north-east as well as north-west monsoon seasons while deciding a distress formula but Tamilnadu goes over board by making noise even before the start of north-east monsoon season to get as much of water as possible from Karnataka. So, whenever there is drought, Tamilnadu sticks to the incomplete and unfair distress formula to pressurise Karnataka to release water.
The 5 injustices!
- Karnataka has 42% of Kaveri basin. Our irrigation area should also be raised proportionately. To be fair, we should have got at least 23 lakh acres of land under irrigation in the basin, while Tamilnadu's right share should have been 13.6 lakh acres. Using the arguments of heritage right and historical claim, Tamilnadu was awarded disproportionate water in the final agreement. This is the first and foremost injustice meted out to Karnataka.
- The tribunal's final judgement to release 192 TMC of water at Biligundlu instead of 205 TMC asked in interim judgement was actually an eye wash. Earlier, Karnataka was releasing 180 TMC of water at Biligundlu after subtracting 25 TMC of water that flows into the river between Biligundlu and Mettur, but now, the final judgement asks Karnataka to release 192TMC at Biligundlu itself and if you take into account the other 25 TMC of water between Biligundlu and Mettur, Karnataka will end up giving 217 (192 at biligundlu + 25 between biligundlu and mettur) TMC of water which is 12 TMC more than what was decided in interim judgement ! This is the second injustice.
- The tribunal awarded 30 TMC of water to Kerala and it asked Karnataka and Tamilnadu to release 21 TMC and 9 TMC respectively to Kerala. As Kerala currently has no infrastructure to utilise that water, Tamilnadu was allowed to use that 9 TMC of water but Karnataka was not allowed to do so ! Karnataka was asked to release that 21 TMC reserved for Kerala to Tamilnadu and Tamilnadu was allowed to use even that water ! This is the third injustice.
- To protect environment, Karnataka was ordered to release 10 TMC of water, while no such rule was made for Tamilnadu. So protecting environment is just Karnataka's responsibility? huh? This is the fourth injustice.
- Karnataka supplies 15 TMC of water to Bengaluru for it's drinking water needs. With Bruhat Bengaluru, the need was revised to 30 TMC. Chamarajanagara, Mandya, Mysore, Channapattana, Ramanagar, the other towns in the Kaveri basin together need around 60 TMC for drinking water needs. The tribunal has reserved just 1.85 TMC of water. Another surprise is the tribunal says that only 1/3rd of Bengaluru falls in Kaveri basin and hence only that part has been considered while allocating! Even the UN says that the first preference should always be given to drinking water needs, but to aid Tamilnadu grow 3 crops an year, drinking water needs of Karnataka was made to suffer. How fair is this? This is the fifth injustice.
The continued injustice!
150 TMC of ground water available in Tamilnadu was not at all considered while giving the final judgement even when Tamilnadu itself declared that it is using 20 TMC of ground water! The experts panel of the tribunal gave a report saying Tamilnadu needs 395 TMC of water while the tribunal awarded 419 TMC of water ! Ain't that surprising?
When DMK is part of Union government, when it has four ministers in the cabinet, when Karnataka elects outsiders to Rajyasabhe, when Karnataka is being ruled by national parties having their allegiance more to their high commands than to the people who have voted them to power, will justice ever prevail for Kannadigas? This is a big question doing rounds in the minds of all Kannadigas. If Kannadigas do not wake up to seek justice, future will be bleak for us.
What rules and laws does India has about river water sharing in a fair and just manner? What is real justice for Karnataka? Will Karnataka get justice ever in future? What will happen to Kannadigas if the final judgment is published in the gazette of the Union government? What will be the way out for Karnataka? What role does our political parties play in this? Let's see in the next and final post.