A week after the Supreme Court directed Karnataka to release water to Tami Nadu from the Cauvery, farmers’ groups and Kannada organizations are an agitated lot, and the state is gearing up for a state-wide shutdown on Friday.
On Monday, the SC ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water to TN by September 15 to save TN’s Samba crop (the second season crop, September to January). Tamil Nadu government declared the first crop a failure on account of water shortage. The SC has set up a Cauvery Supervisory Committee to visit the two states to assess ground realities and implement the orders of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal.
According to a report in The Hindu, the four reservoirs on the Cauvery – Hemavathi, Harangi, Krishna Raja Sagar and Kabini – have a water storage of 46.7 tmcft against their total capacity of 104 tmcft. The Karnataka government is now taking measures to file a petition with SC to modify its order directing Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water.
The Cauvery river is the main source of drinking water for Bengaluru city, and Mandya and Mysuru districts. It also irrigates the latter two districts.
The deficient monsoons this year have not ameliorated Karnataka’s water situation, which has taken a serious beating on account of a drought for the third successive year.
In an interview with The News Minute, Karnataka Water Resources Minister MB Patil who is currently at the receiving end of farmers’ ire, takes questions on the water situation in the state. Edited excerpts:
What is the situation that Karnataka faces?
As we know Cauvery is a rainfall-dependent river. According to the IMD, the level of rainfall this year is less than in the previous year.
Over 13 tmcft of water is to be released at a time when the storage in all the four Cauvery river reservoirs in Karnataka is 49 tmc. The storage in the reservoirs this year is about 15 % less than what it was at this time last year. This quantum – 49 tmcft – is just enough water to meet the drinking water needs of three districts – Bengaluru, Mysuru and Mandya.
The TN region receives enough rainfall and ground water is recharged by the end of monsoons. That is not the case in Karnataka.
We had offered to release water to Tamil Nadu at the rate of 10,000 cusecs for five days. This was keeping in mind the Supreme Court’s order of proportional release of water in a distress year. The court was also to discuss the distress year formula, however, the ones that were discussed were not acceptable to either of the states.
If legal intervention has not helped, what is the long term solution?
The supervisory committee must step in and see the ground reality. It will give a realistic picture. There have been many changes since 1924 in the Cauvery basin and all those need to be considered.
We have sent a team of agricultural and water experts to study the Cauvery delta region. We want to know what the water is really being used for in Tamil Nadu and whether there is a deficit there.
Are you doing anything to reduce water-intensive crops in the state?
We are already rationing water and trying to save the first crop in the state. We have been restricting farmers from planting paddy and sugarcane. Our farmers are unhappy. Last year, the government did not have water for the second crop, whereas TN had three crops. This year if we are going to deprive our farmers of water for the first crop itself, why should we even have a dam in Karnataka? When the SC told Karnataka to “live and let live”, shouldn’t it apply to Tamil Nadu too?
People say the Cauvery issue flares up when Jayalalithaa becomes Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. Do you think she has an agenda?
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was born in Mandya district. Her main aim is to show the people of Tamil Nadu that she has been depriving people in her own birthplace and helping them. This is something she can always boast about in future. She is killing Kannadigas here to appease people there, so that it looks like she has made a sacrifice.
Karnataka has no water to save its first season crop, while TN wants water to safeguard its second season crop. Last year, TN had three successful crops, and Karnataka had barely two. This is the disadvantage of being the upper riparian state. The sympathy lies with Tamil Nadu as is the lower riparian state. And Jayalalithaa has done a good job of playing victim.
Karnataka gives lakhs of litres of water to the Pepsi factory in Dharwad. Is that necessary when that region faces drinking water shortage?
That is a policy decision that should be taken and it will take time. Factories are taking water from industries quota, but it is all our own creation. If the government thinks industries are being a burden, then it will take a call.