Finding a long-term solution to Cauvery water dispute

The recent ugly turn of events in the Cauvery river water dispute between upstream Karnataka and downstream Tamil Nadu bear ample testimony of the extreme clashes of egos on the side of the political leadership eventually flowing down to the levels of the common man like a deluge. The chequered history of hydro-political relations between the two states has been marked by conflicts, agreements, defections, court orders and “blame games” from either parties — way back from the mid-1850s.

On February 5, 2007, the Cauvery Tribunal finally declared the Final Award for allocation of the water between the states of the basin. The Tribunal determined that the total utilisable waters of the Cauvery for the states on the basis of 50% dependability to be 740 tmc  (20,954 MCM). In the process, it allotted 419 tmc (as against its demand of 562 tmc) of the Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu; 270 tmc (as against its demand of 465 tmc ft) to Karnataka; 30 tmc to Kerala and 7 tmc to Pondicherry. While allocating the 726 tmc of water, the Tribunal has “reserved” 10  tmc for “environmental protection”  and 4 TMC for “inevitable escapages to the sea.”

In many of my previous writings, especially in my paper published in the journal, Water Policy,with Jayanta Bandyopadhyay in 2009, I had criticised this simple-average-based allocation, terming this phenomenon as “arithmetic hydrology.” Such a paradigm of water allocation based on “arithmetic hydrology” has been a proven disaster across the world, and Cauvery river allocation exemplifies that. The basis of reservation for “environmental protection” and “inevitable escapages to the sea” is utterly ad hoc, and does not even conform to the global scientific knowledge of environmental flows.

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Amit Singh

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