Both states need to diversify crop patterns and upgarde their century-old irrigation systems.

What the SC panel said about Karnataka and Tamil Nadus claims to Cauvery water
news Cauvery Dispute Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 16:37

After close to two months of heightened passions over the Cauvery, the expert panel’s report to the Supreme Court has some criticism for the two states.

The panel visited areas in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka on October 7-8 and in Tamil Nadu on October 9-10.

After visiting these areas, the crux of the panel’s conclusions is that the two states have to understand each other’s claims while ensuring justice and substantially plan agricultural activity in accordance with water flows.

The representations made by the two states to the panel (which also visited Puducherry), indicate water deficit, and other data shows that this condition has been brought about not just by flaws in the long-term water usage, but also due to change in climate and rainfall.

Below are the highlights of the panel's report.

Conclusions of the panel:

  • The panel notes that farmers in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are facing hardship on account of three years of reduced flow in the Cauvery river. Below are some of the conclusions of the panel:
  • The deficit impact on account of water allocation at 50% dependability can be neutralised to some extent by optimal, dynamic and resilient planning of the cropped area considering the flow pattern and forecast. This can address the issue of unemployment and financial hardship in the basin States.
  • The water application techniques are outdated and unscientific and the value of water is not realised. Because irrigation is based on the concept of flooding from one field to the adjacent field, water consumption is on the higher side. Due to this, during distress period this becomes very significant depending upon the soil condition.
  • The infrastructure to deliver water to the farmers is century-old and has very low conveyance efficiency. This needs to be modernised for optimal use of scarce water. The conveyance efficiency can be further improved by piped distribution network and application efficiency by micro irrigation (sprinkler and drip) and precision irrigation. In addition, on-farm development (OFD) works may be provided to ensure equitable distribution of water to an individual farmer’s field.
  • Crop alignment and crop diversification need to be practiced.
  • Participatory Irrigation Management is to be encouraged for optimal, efficient and equitable distribution of water amongst the farmers.
  • At places near the coast, the groundwater cannot be utilised because it is saline due to ingress from sea water. The only source of irrigation in such areas is surface water from Mettur reservoir.
  • Drinking water demands need to be optimised and efficient delivery mechanism needs to be put in place.
  • Automated water measuring instrumentation needs to be provided for transparent recording of flows and water diversion along with system for online transmission and retrieval of data through dashboard. 

What Karnataka told the panel:

  • Up to October 5, 2016, there has been a shortfall of 51.35% against the average inflow considering the data of last 25 years (1991-2015).
  • An area of 10.061 lakh acres is to be irrigated from four reservoirs in Karnataka.
  • The cropping pattern includes paddy and semi-dry crops. The total area sown during the current Kharif period is 6.15 lakh acres which is about 61.1% of the potential area.

What Tamil Nadu said:

  • 12 lakh acres have been programmed during the current year against 14.93 lakh acres hoping that the NE monsoon will be normal and also Karnataka would release its rightful share of water.
  • Considering the monsoon condition and also due to non-release of water by Karnataka, only single Samba crop in an area of 4.46 lakh acres out of 12 lakh acres have been taken up by direct sowing thereby reducing the water requirements. Nurseries have been raised for transplantation in about 2.04 lakh acres and rest of the area is ploughed and ready for cultivation.
  • Government of Karnataka has utilised water for areas which are not permitted under the award. Many tanks have been established around the reservoirs and the inflows and outflows of water used under these reservoirs is not accounted for.
  • North East Monsoon is not dependable.
  • Rainfall in the catchment should also be considered while assessing the distribution of water.
  • The water requirements for Samba crop (the only crop taken during the current year) in an area of 12 lakh acres against the potential of 14.93 lakh acres, the water required for the balance period is 143 TMC. The crop area taken up during the current distress year is about 80%.
  • Karnataka has taken up projects of the order of 1,24,991 acres which are not permitted under Tribunal award.

Indications of water stress in Karnataka:

  • Rainfall pattern during South West (SW) monsoon (1st June 2016 to 30th Sept 2016) in Cauvery basin, KRS catchment and below reservoir catchments indicates a shortfall of 21% in the entire basin and 25% in KRS catchment and 13% below reservoirs in Cauvery basin. There is a shortfall of 59% in Kabini catchment.
  • Total inflows in all the four reservoirs during the period of SW Monsoon (1st June 2016 to 30th Sept 2016) is 131.62 TMC against the long term average of 257 TMC in the corresponding period. This is 51.2% of the long term average indicating a deficit of about 48.8%.
  • According to analysis presented by Karnataka, the cumulative flows in four reservoirs were below the 42-year average in 24 out of the 42 years.
  • Inflows during NE monsoon are short in 19 out of the 42 years, considering the average of 42 years.
  • Total live storage available in all the four reservoirs together is 32.005 TMC as on October 5, 2016.
  • 2015-16 and 2016-17 have been consecutive deficit years, therefore the gravity of shortfall during current year is more.
  • Out of 1436 minor irrigation tanks, about 53% of the tanks are dry, 39% of the tanks received water between 30-50% and 8% of the tanks got more than 50% of their capacity.
  • Out of 106 assessment groundwater blocks/units, 30 have been categorised as overexploited, 6 as critical, 7 as semi-critical.

Indications of water stress in Tamil Nadu:

  • Mettur dam because of poor storage could not release water as scheduled on June 12.
  • Nagapattinam, Thanjavur and Thiruvarur district witnessed rainfall deficit of 14%, 9% and 30% respectively with respect to normal rainfall.
  • The storage in Bhavanisagar reservoir is 5.15 TMC (16% of the capacity) as on October 5, 2016.

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