Tamil Nadu was left disappointed on Friday after the chief secretaries of the Cauvery Basin states met with Union Ministry of Water Resources. Now, the state’s demand for a Cauvery Water Management Board within 6 weeks of the Supreme Court verdict may be a distant dream.
The meeting, convened to discuss the process of setting up the Board, saw arguments about the meaning of the word ‘scheme’ in the SC order, according to a Times of India report.
The SC, in its verdict, had set a deadline of 6 weeks to frame a scheme to execute its order of setting up a board. While TN argued that “scheme” meant to comply with the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal to set up the Cauvery Management Board (CMB), Karnataka opposed this by saying that there is no mention of the river management board and only a ‘scheme’ is mentioned.
The Central government went with Karnataka’s argument, putting an end to TN’s dreams of setting up the CMB immediately.
The Karnataka Assembly polls are scheduled to take place in May this year.
“It is a matter of interpretation. The tribunal has recommended (a board). The SC doesn’t use the word Cauvery Management Board. It says scheme,” said Union Water Resources secretary UP Singh.
The Karnataka government had stated to the Centre that it was opposed to the formation of the CMB altogether, but open to other mechanisms of implementing the SC order, according to a TNIE report. This is because setting up of the CMB, a neutral body, will take away Karnataka’s control over the management of the Cauvery basin.
Opposing this, the TN chief secretary had argued that the Centre was bound to set up the CMB and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee within 6 weeks, as per the tribunal’s award and three weeks had already lapsed.
The meeting finally concluded with the states – TN, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry – agreeing to discuss formulating a ‘scheme’ to execute the SC order, the report said.
During the meeting the Singh, also suggested alternative models such as the Bhakra-Beas Management Board and Narmada Control Authority for the management of Cauvery’s water.
As for TN, a senior official said, the state would react only after seeing if the Centre deviated from the SC verdict and check what the roles and responsibilities of the regulatory body will be.