War over water politics

The violent protest over the water politics that the country is witnessing today traces its origin way back in 1892. A dispute between the Madras Presidency (under the British Raj) and the Princely state of Mysore turned into a major issue when they came up to the terms with sharing the river water between the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Since that day, Cauvery water has been a bone of contention between the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In the year 1910, both the states decided on the construction of dams on the Cauvery River.

The issue that originated decades back kept troubling the regions of both the states as few years after the decision on water sharing was taken, Karnataka stopped the release of water to Tamil Nadu which led to the waste of many crops and thus problem begin to rise again. At this time the Tamil Nadu government led by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa sued the Karnataka government for contempt of court.

There was no fire between the two states until this year September 5, when the issue of water sharing came into the limelight again. With the Supreme Court deciding on releasing 15,000 cusecs daily to Tamil Nadu the fire within the state of Karnataka has escalated. This not only led to the breakdown of a huge mass protest but has also left the state to standstill.

The disproportionate ratio of water sharing between the states that led to the lack of clarity on sharing the Cauvery waters in  years when the state suffers from lack of proper monsoon lies becomes the heart of the tussle that ignites the initial fire every now and again between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

According to Karnataka Law Minister T B Jayachandra, the reservoirs in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka has the capacity to reserve only about 51 tmc of water at present, the people of state feels this quantity of water to be sufficient only to meet the need of the drinking water for the people in south Karnataka and not enough for release to Tamil Nadu.

“When the monsoon does not deliver to its full potential, neighbours turn foes in the Cauvery River basin in south India.” said Jayachandra. Over the last few years Tamil Nadu has become heavily dependent on the Cauvery River. Most of the agricultural land built in the region was near the river and thus most of the livelihood was totally dependent on Cauvery River. Today these poor farmers are arguing that their livelihood would get seriously affected if there happens to be a change in the distribution of water all of a sudden.

As per a report released on February 5, 2007 the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) had ordered Karnataka to release 192 tmc of water to Tamil Nadu during regular monsoon, which the state failed to do. And following this came up the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Cauvery water-sharing row that turned the whole frame into more devastating. The verdict has escalated resulting in mass protests and bandhs called by pro-Kannada leaders across the two states. Many buses had remained stranded over the past few days, which were once used to be full with crowd. This is not the ultimate scenario of the water war.

The state is today witnessing some sporadic incidents of attacks may it be on the people or on a hotel. Following this the agitation within the individual souls have turned so worst that there are also reports of pelting of stones, ruckus at a bank and attacks on vehicles from both the States. Nevertheless to bring down the situation to a notch below the Supreme Court has modified its order and has redirected Karnataka to release 10,000 cusecs a day till September 20.

But has this step finally brought some relief to the problems which both the states were witnessing till today? The answer still remains unclear, no improvement as such has happened over the last few days but rather the situation has worsened and with that the future of the farmers is again under question.