There is a water dispute in our country regarding many rivers, one of the most interesting cases is the Cauvery water dispute.

In this article, we will discuss the Cauvery water dispute in a simple way and try to understand its various aspects.

So read this article till the end and also read related articles for better understanding. [Read – Center-state relations]

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| River Water Disputes

In a federal system country, there can be a dispute between the state and the state, there can be a dispute between the center and the state and there can be many reasons for this dispute. 

In this context, the river water dispute is a major cause of dispute between the state and the state.

In a federal system country, if there is a dispute between the respective states over the sharing of rivers flowing through two or more states, then it is not a new thing because water scarcity is a problem and the way this problem is increasing,

In the coming time, this can take the form of an even bigger problem, in such a situation, all the states will want more and more water rights.

You can understand from the chart below how big is the river water dispute in India. It can be seen here that except a few states, almost all the states have this kind of problem. And this problem is not of today but of many decades ago. 

Talking about the Cauvery water dispute, it is going on since the 19th century. In this way it can be said that river water dispute plays a big role in spoiling the inter-state relations.

tribunal’s chart

Nameestablishment yearconcerned state
1. Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal1969Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
2. Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal1969Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha
3. Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal1969Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra
4. Ravi and Vyas Water Disputes Tribunal1986Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan
5. Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal1990Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry
6. Second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal2004Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
7. Vanshdhara Water Disputes Tribunal2010Odisha and Andhra Pradesh
8. Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal2010Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka

The Cauvery water dispute (which we are going to discuss) is very important and very interesting because this dispute is going on since the year 1892 when India was not even independent. 

Many times agreements were made and broken, even after independence, many agreements were made on this or decisions were given by the court but it was never implemented properly.

| What is Cauvery water dispute?

Cauvery water dispute
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The Kaveri River originates from the Talakaveri in the Brahmagiri Mountains of the Kodagu district of Karnataka; It is about 800 km long and flows mainly in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

In Karnataka, where its catchment area is 34,273 sq km, its catchment area in Tamil Nadu is 43,868 sq km. Some part of it is shared by Kerala and a very small part is also shared by Puducherry. That is why, along with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry also get their share of this water.

The Cauvery water dispute is mainly regarding the sharing of water of the Cauvery river between the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

Both the states want more and more water, that is why neither side is ready to accept, as a result the dispute continues. But this controversy is not new, but it is more than a hundred years old.

| Why is there a Cauvery water dispute?

The Cauvery water dispute predates India’s independence. The Cauvery water sharing dispute has been a matter of dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu since the time of the British Raj

The main reason for this is that many districts of both the states are dependent on Cauvery for irrigation. Even the city of Bangalore gets its water from this river.

The beginning of this dispute is considered to be from the year 1892 because it was in this year that the dispute over sharing of Cauvery water between Madras Presidency and Mysore State was started under the British Raj. The Presidency did not agree to this.

However in 1910, both the states started conceptualizing the idea of ​​building reservoirs to store the river water. But both could not reach an agreement.

Later in 1924, the British presided over the issue of water sharing, and the Madras Presidency and Mysore State signed an agreement listing the rules for the use of water from the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam.

The agreement of 1924 gave the Madras Presidency and the State of Mysore the right to use the surplus water from the Cauvery River. As per the agreement, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will get 75% of the surplus water, while Karnataka will get 23%. The remaining water was for Kerala.

This agreement continued till India got independence, but after independence the problem started deepening due to (1) the separation of Andhra Pradesh from Madras in 1953 and (2) the States Reorganization Act 1956, under which the Indian states were divided.

A new map of India was created by truncation, addition and subtraction, in which there were 14 states and 6 union territories.

One of these 14 states was Mysore, in which the state of Coorg was also merged under the States Reorganization Act 1956 . This Mysore later came to be known as Karnataka in 1973.

[Read from here- Story of formation of Indian states]

Overall, now that the boundaries of the states had changed, the area had changed, it was natural that a new agreement would have to be made even on the partition. 

But the matter was not only that the 1924 agreement was only for 50 years which was ending in 1974 and Karnataka did not like that the river originates from its state but it gets only 23 percent water and Tamil Nadu 75 percent water. Perhaps for this reason Karnataka wanted a new settlement.

For this, Karnataka wanted to follow the principle of equal division. The Karnataka government proposed that the two states receive 47% of the water and divide the remaining 6 percent equally between Kerala and Puducherry.

Tamil Nadu was not happy with this and wanted to stick to the agreement of 1924. In 1986, a farmers union in the Thanjavur region of Tamil Nadu urged the Supreme Court to set up a tribunal to resolve the water sharing dispute.

In 1990, the Supreme Court heard petitions submitted by both the states and directed them to settle the matter through negotiations. But when negotiations failed, the Supreme Court directed the Center to set up a tribunal , which would decide on the distribution of water between the two states.

Important facts related to river water dispute
Article 262 of the Constitution – deals with the adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers or river basins, which provides for two provisions:

1. Parliament may, by law, make any disputes relating to the use, distribution and control of waters of inter-state rivers and river basins. can adjudicate.

2. Parliament can also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court should exercise its jurisdiction in any such dispute. That is, the Parliament should decide the role of the court.
Using this article, the Parliament made two laws. (1) River Board Act (1956) (2) Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956) .

(1)The work of the River Board Act (1956) is to establish a River Board for the control and development of inter-state rivers and river basins. (River Boards are established by the Central Government on the request of the concerned States to advise them.)

(2) Using the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956) , the Central Government is the one to adjudicate river water disputes between two or more States. Can constitute a Provisional Court (Tribunal) . ,

The decision of the Tribunal is final and binding on all the parties to the dispute.

Under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act 1956, the Central Government constituted the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal on June 2, 1990 , which gave an interim verdict in the year 1991. In the interim decision, Tamil Nadu was asked to provide 205 TMC feet (i.e 205 billion cubic feet) of water.

The tribunal’s decision sparked riots in both the states, as Karnataka rejected the tribunal’s decision and sought its quashing in the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Tribunal.

In 1993, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa went on a hunger strike in Chennai, saying that the interim order of the tribunal was not being followed by Karnataka. Karnataka, on the other hand, had to say that the state is facing drought and hence water cannot be released.

In the year 1998, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) was constituted with the Prime Minister as the Chairman and members of the Chief Ministers of the four states . The task of this authority was to implement the interim order of the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal .

| Final Judgment of Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal 2007

The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gave its main verdict on this issue after nearly 16 years in 2007. The tribunal considered 740 tmc ft (billion cubic feet) of water in the Cauvery basin and ruled that 419 tmc ft of water per annum belongs to Tamil Nadu and 270 tmc ft to Karnataka. Along with this, 30 TMC feet was given to Kerala and 7 TMC feet to Puducherry.

The tribunal also said that in a normal monsoon year, Karnataka will have to release 192 TMC feet of water to Tamil Nadu every year.

Although both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were not satisfied with the decision, they appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court heard in February 2018 petitions filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala against the 2007 judgment by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

In this decision, 192 tmc ft (billion cubic feet) of water received by Tamil Nadu was reduced to 177.25 tmc ft ie 14.75 tmc ft and this water was given to Karnataka. In this way, Karnataka now started getting more water by 14.75 TMC feet. 

The Supreme Court attributed the cut in Tamil Nadu’s water to groundwater sources there. And that is why the Supreme Court allowed Tamil Nadu to draw an additional 10 tmc ft of ‘underground water’ from the total 20 tmc ft of Cauvery basin. 

There has been no change in the water received by Kerala and Puducherry and they will continue to get 30 and 7 TMC feet respectively as before. The court said that this latest decision will have to be followed by both the states for 15 years.

So overall this is the Cauvery water dispute; For now, till the year 2032-33, peace is expected between the two states, if the present judgment given by the Supreme Court is upheld.

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मूल संविधान भाग 11↗️
Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka – thenewsminute
Kaveri – wikipedia
Story of Formation of States in India
Inter-State Water Disputes, Inter-State Council