The highly anticipated Cauvery verdict delivered by the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday could finally settle the over 120-year dispute between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
As per the order, TN's share has been reduced by 14.75 tmc ft - it will now receive 177.25 tmc ft instead of the earlier 192 tmc ft. Karnataka on the other hand, has been allocated 284.75 tmc ft. There has been no change in allocation for Kerala and Puducherry.
The apex court's verdict has been relatively well received by both the states.
While for Karnataka, the apparent 'win' could prove to be a major boost as the state readies for the assembly elections this year, Tamil Nadu too, as experts and farmers have pointed out, may not be at a loss in the long run.
The SC in its judgment specifically mentions that rivers are national assets and no one state can claim to have sole rights over them.
However, the most significant development is that the SC has also directed the formation of the Cauvery Management Board immediately.
Cauvery Management Board (CMB)
CMB will be an inter-state forum which will work to ensure that the orders of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal are implemented and the states comply with it. The Board shall be under the control of the Ministry of Water Resources, Govt. of India.
The members of the Board will include a Chairman, two full-time members, and representatives of the central government and each of the four states. The expenses of the Board will be borne by the state governments.
The CMB will set up the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee which among other things, will ensure release of water as per the orders and collect data of water released from reservoirs.
The SC has given the Centre six weeks to frame a scheme so that authorities make sure the final decisions are implemented.
'It needs no special emphasis to state that the purpose of Section 6A is to act in the manner in which the award determines the allocation and decides the dispute with regard to allocation or sharing of water. Keeping that in view, we direct that a scheme shall be framed by the Central Government within a span of six weeks from today so that the authorities under the scheme can see to it that the present decision which has modified the award passed by the Tribunal is smoothly made functional and the rights of the States as determined by us are appositely carried out. 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,' says the order.
Board to ensure water allocation properly implemented
In 2007, the Tribunal had given out its final order and in 2015, the orders were notified in the gazette, following which the CMB should have been established. However, the Centre failed to set up the Board. This, despite multiple requests from former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who had sent several letters to the Centre.
For Tamil Nadu farmers, this comes across as a relief as despite the tribunal's order in the past, Karnataka released less water to it than what had been stipulated. With the formation of the CMB, Karnataka will have no choice but to release TN's share of water, they say.