The plea of an all party delegation from Karnataka notwithstanding, the Union Government as directed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday notified the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and this is expected to set in motion another round of confrontation between the two riparian States which have been in serious dispute for over three decades

Sources in the Karnataka Government told The Hindu on Tuesday that the notification has been issued and the Supreme Court will be informed of the same. The Union Government has also gazetted the notification which is mandatory.

What however is expected to come as a help to Karnataka at the present juncture is that the enforcement of the Cauvery final award also calls for an Act of Parliament (Cauvery Water Regulation Act) and in the view of the Government here it is under these provisions that the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee have to be constituted.

With the final award having been notified it is evident that the Union Government has to necessarily pave the way for the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.

The Chief Minister, Jagadish Shettar told The Hindu that under the circumstances , “Karnataka hopes that at least the constitution of the board will be delayed ”. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has assured that the State Government will be kept informed since it has urged that the final award should not be notified at the present juncture. “In the interregnum the Cauvery River Authority and the Cauvery monitoring Committee should continue to function as they have been in the past particulary in the years of distress”.

Mr Jagadish Shettar said the final award has been notified obviously due to the order of the Supreme Court. “Our plea is that unless the appeals are disposed of by the Apex Court , the Cauvery Management Board should not be set up. The latest assessment made by a team of Central Water Commission (CWC), under the direction of the Supreme Court, has exposed the incorrect claims of Tamil Nadu. Therefore, I feel that the very basis of allocation of water to Tamil Nadu needs to be revisited”.

All the Cauvery riparian States have challenged the final award of the CWDT and have also submitted clarificatory petitions before the CWDT which incidentally is yet to be reconstituted. The award prescribes the constitution of a board for the overall management of the Cauvery basin reservoirs in the two States which in a way will be a successor to the Cauvery River Authority presently functioning under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The award also orders the formation of a Cauvery Water Regulation Committee which will be a successor to the Cauvery

Monitoring Committee . Both the board and the regulation committee are expected to function under the direct charge of the Central Water Commission although they will comprise of representatives of all the four riparian States—Karnataka , Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Puducherry.

It should be noted that the Supreme Court earlier this month accused the Centre of abdicating its duty by not notifying the six-year-old final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and directed it to do so by February 20. Incidentally, the final award off the CWDT was also announced in February (February 5, 2007). Pending the notification of the final award, the interim award of the CWDT announced in 1991 has been in operation.

The tribunal award of 2007 had allocated 30 TMC (thousand million cubic-feet) of water to Kerala, 270 TMC to Karnataka, 419 TMC to Tamil Nadu and 7 TMC to Puducherry keeping 10 tmc for environmental protection annually. It had decided that in distress years, when the water flow is lower, the share would remain in the same proportion and had also fixed a monthly delivery by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu for the months of June-November.

Gazetting of the final notification will result in the State Government losing supervisory control over the four Cauvery basin reservoirs—the Krishnarajasagar , Hemavathi, Kabini and the Harangi reservoirs. In other words, Karnataka cannot exercise the option to release water to Tamil Nadu only after it had a sufficient storage in the reservoirs, particularly in the years of distress like the present one. .

What it entails

Gazetting of the final notification will result in the State government losing supervisory control over the four Cauvery basin reservoirs — the Krishnarajasagar, the Hemavathi, Kabini and the Harangi reservoirs. Karnataka would not be able to exercise the option to release water to Tamil Nadu only after it has sufficient storage in the reservoirs, particularly in the years of distress, like the present one.