Even as a storm is gathering in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery waters, sober minds call for an amicable and a permanent solution to the water shortage in both the States which is likely to become perennial.
When the tussle is on for sharing about 400 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft), about four times the quantum of water of the west-flowing rivers of Karnataka remain unutilised, laments N. Natarajan, author of two books on the Cauvery issue and adviser to the Cauvery Family.
“It would a distinct possibility to evolve an amicable solution if both the States were to cooperate and utilise the 13 west-flowing rivers in Karnataka that run off into the Arabian Sea,” he asserts.
A former PWD superintending engineer, who has served in the Cauvery basin for decades together, Mr Natarajan quotes C. S. Kuppuraj, former chief engineer, Tamil Nadu PWD, saying that as much as 2,000 tmcft runs off into the Arabian Sea from Karnataka of which “50 per cent to 75 per cent is wasted into the sea.”
Basing his calculations on the particulars provided by the Karnataka government to the Tribunal, Mr. Natarajan estimates that the total availability of water in Karnataka because of its seven basins is 3,475 tmcft.
Of that, the 13 west-flowing rivers, including Kali, Sharavathi, Chakra, Nethravathi, Varahi, Mahadayi, Bedthi, Aghanashini, and Barapole and the areas lying in among these rivers contribute to total 2,000 tmcft.
Of them, the rivers that flow close to the Cauvery basin contribute 923 tmcft.
“There will be no harm to any of the basins like Hemavathi and Lakhmana Theertha by diverting the flows. Besides, the diversion of 300 tmcft to 400 tmcft water would help irrigate substantial land in the basins of the Cauvery, Hemavathi, Herangi and Krishnaraja Sagar (estimated to be 11 lakh acres) that are crying for water.”
Of the 48 taluks of nine districts in Karnataka, lying wholly or partly in Cauvery basin, 28 taluks are identified drought-prone. By the proposed project, it would be possible not only to irrigate all these taluks but also to provide drinking water, he contends.
Mr. Natarajan points out that as early as 2002, then Chief Minister S.M. Krishna announced that the State Government was preparing a blue print to divert the west-flowing rivers to the east to help regain 142 tmcft (Feb 11,2002).
Asked about the technical feasibility of such a project, he says it could be accomplished by laying contour canals and tunnels and through pumped storage schemes.
“But, as this project will cost substantially, it would be prudent for Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to join hands and use the assistance of the Central government as well. When Tamil Nadu could contribute for the Telugu Ganga Project (Krishna Water Supply Project) to get water for Chennai, can’t it try a similar strategy to get water for irrigating thousands of acres in the delta without any strain every year ?” he wonders.