Even if Tamil Nadu gets less water than it has bargained for, it can be sure of it with the Board ensuring that Karnataka does not defy the order.

Cauvery verdict Why TNs short-term loss is good in the long runPTI
news Opinion Friday, February 16, 2018 - 17:39
Written by  S Murari

The Supreme Court has modified the order of the Cauvery Tribunal’s final award by reducing Tamil Nadu’s share to 177.25 tmcft against 192 tmcft allotted in the final award given 11 years ago. It enhanced the share of Karnataka by 14.75 tmc ft, mainly to meet the drinking water needs of Bengaluru metro.

The decision, which brought the century-old dispute to a closure, left Tamil Nadu disappointed while Karnataka celebrated it with party men distributing sweets.

While Tamil Nadu may feel disappointed, the problem has been in enforcing the orders. Karnataka has not fully implemented the final award of the Cauvery Tribunal in the last 11 years since it gave its final award. The Cauvery Management Board will ensure compliance.

The first bench headed by Chief Justice Deepak Misra has said the order would be in force for the next 15 years and there could be no appeal against it.

The court, however, has left the share of Kerala and Puducherry left unchanged at 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft respectively

The court has reduced Tamil Nadu’s share taking into account groundwater of 10 tmcft at Mettur point. After deducting that, it has set apart from Tamil Nadu’s quota another 4.75 tmcft water for providing drinking water to Bengaluru.

In a relief to Tamil Nadu, the court directed that the Cauvery Management Board should be set up immediately to oversee the enforcement of the order. It also declared that no state could claim exclusive right over rivers, holding they are national assets. It thereby reaffirmed the internationally recognized rights of lower riparian states.  

 The court directed the Centre to frame a scheme in six weeks from today (Friday) so that the authorities under the scheme can see to it that the decision could be made functional. “When we say so, we also categorically convey that the need based monthly release has to be respected. It is hereby made clear that no extension shall be granted for framing of the scheme on any ground,” reads the Supreme Court order.

This is pursuant to the recommendation of the Tribunal for a Cauvery Management Board on the lines of Bhakra Beas Management Board. The Tribunal has said, “In our opinion, the necessity of setting up a suitable mechanism is of utmost importance; besides whatever machinery is set up should be adequately empowered to implement the Tribunal’s decision, as otherwise, we are afraid our decision would only be on a piece of paper.”

The Tribunal had further said that the mechanism shall be independent in character, comprising of technical officers from the Central Government and representatives from the Governments of the party States on the lines of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMS), to achieve the objective of the distribution of waters as per equitable shares determined by the Tribunal.

It further said that since the implementation of the final award of the Tribunal involves regulation of supplies from various reservoirs and at other important nodal points/diversion structures, it would be imperative that the mechanism (Cauvery Management Board) is entrusted with the function of supervision of operation of reservoirs and with regulation of water releases therefrom with the assistance of Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (to be constituted by the Board).

This has been one of the long pending demands of Tamil Nadu. It remained on paper for the past 11 years because of stiff opposition from Karnataka because the Board can take control of reservoirs to ensure release as per the award.

Even if Tamil Nadu gets less water than it has bargained for, it can be sure of it with the Board ensuring that Karnataka does not defy the order.

However, the Tamil Nadu Government and the political parties have expressed disappointment over the final order as the State’s share has gradually come down from 205 tmcft under the interim order to 192 tmcft in the final award and now to 177.25 tmcft as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Tamil Nadu’s Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, expressing anguish over the order, said the State could explore alternative ways to ensure availability of water at Mettur for irrigation in the delta region. He cited the Centre ‘s plan to divert Godavari river and link it with Cauvery at Mettur. 

The PMK and the DMK have blamed the AIADMK Government for the final order which DMK’s PWD Minister for several years Durai Murugan called a disgrace to the State.  

Actor Kamal Hassan, however, has said that while the final order is no doubt disappointing, the time has come to revive the Cauvery family – where leading farmers of both the states under the aegis of the Madras Institute of Development Studies must float to take the issue away from politicians.

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