State delegation demands reassessment of water needs of Tamil Nadu
An all party delegation from Karnataka, led by chief minister Jagadish Shettar, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday and demanded that the Centre should refrain from notifying the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final order until the disposal of the civil appeals filed by the three riparian states in the Supreme Court.
The delegation comprised the state’s deputy chief minister R Ashok, water resources minister Basavaraja Bommai and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly M Siddaramaiah (Congress) among others. The prime minister did not give any assurance to the delegation and told them that the Centre would take the appropriate decision in consultation with the Union law ministry. He also told the group the Supreme Court’s order could not be violated.
If the notification is issued, the Cauvery River Authority and the Cauvery Monitoring Committee will be wound up and replaced by the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee with representatives from the riparian states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, the delegation said.“We told him (Singh), CMB should not be constituted as several civil cases on the matter are pending in the Supreme Court, and only after their disposal can it be formed. He said he would get back to us,” said Shettar after the meeting.
In its memorandum submitted to the prime minister, the Karnataka delegation impressed upon the Centre that implementing the direction of the apex court for issuing the final notification by February 20 would have adverse impact on Karnataka. It contended that the existing system, following the notification of the interim award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal issued on August 11, 1988, under which the Cauvery River Authority and Cauvery Monitoring Committee were formed and all subsequent orders of the tribunal, including the final order of the tribunal, must be continued. It also pointed out that the tribunal had not directed constitution of CMB.
“The Tribunal, realizing the fact that constitution of a Board or Authority under Section 6 of the Inter-State Water Disputes (ISWD) Act of 1956 is the sole prerogative of the Central government and also having regard to the fact that the regulations will have to be approved by Parliament under Section 6A (7) of the ISWD Act of 1956, has merely recommended constitution of a Board,” the memorandum said quoting the tribunal’s actual direction: “For this purpose, we recommend that Cauvery Management Board on the lines of Bhakra Beas Management Board may be constituted by the Central government,” the memorandum said.
The Karnataka delegation, in its memorandum, also brought to the notice of the prime minister that the state government has already challenged the tribunal’s recommendation for constitution of CMB as “it will adversely affect the absolute authority of the state to regulate its reservoirs (under the State List),” and held that it ”would be an unjust and unconstitutional measure, which is against the spirit of the cooperative federal system”.
No solution without sharing formula in times of distress
The memorandum contended that the tribunal’s final order recommended a prescription of monthly accounting of the quota on proportionate sharing formula under the distress situation without assessing the ground realities has been of great concern.
“The focus has to be on addressing the situation during the distress years,” the memorandum said, pointing out that “even the Cauvery River Authority has not yet finalized the distress sharing formula.”
“Unless the (distress sharing formula) is addressed, the dispute would defy a permanent solution,” the memorandum said.
The most important development to be borne in mind, the memorandum said, was that the tribunal has over-estimated the crop water requirement of Tamil Nadu ”based on the self-serving affidavits of the Tamil Nadu overlooking the objections of Karnataka”.
“The latest assessment made by the team of Central Water Commission under the direction of Supreme Court has exposed the incorrect claims of Tamil Nadu,” it said and urged the prime minister to revisit ”the very basis of allocation of water to Tamil Nadu”.
No water to release for now: Shettar
With the release of water to Tamil Nadu over the past nine days leaving the massive KRS dam in Mandya with just 3.5 feet of water before it hits the dead storage level, Shettar declared that it was not possible for Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu “for now”. “In spite of problems, we released water to Tamil Nadu, honouring the Supreme Court order. But it is not possible for us to release water in the present conditions,” he said.
He also rejected the demand for replacing Fali Nariman as head of Karnataka’s legal team on the Cauvery dispute in the Supreme Court as he had represented the case for the past forty years. Sources said the state could agree to the notification of the final award of the tribunal, provided the CMB proposal is put on hold.