Even as the Supreme Court directed Karnataka to release 2.44 tmcft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu immediately, the State government announced in the Legislative Assembly that “it is not in a hurry to release water to Tamil Nadu”.

As an agitated Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) members urged the government not to release water, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar told the House that the government would explore all legal options and convince the Supreme Court about the difficulty in implementing its order, given the prevailing drought and drinking water scarcity in the State.

“It (directive to release water forthwith) is a matter of serious concern,” Mr. Shettar said. The government would hold consultations with advocates appearing for the State in the apex court and decide the future course of action. Mr. Shettar and Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai left for Delhi on Thursday evening for consultation with advocates.

Water-levels sharply depleted in all reservoirs of the Karnataka Cauvery basin and there was no sufficient storage to meet drinking water requirements of Bangalore, Mysore and other towns in the basin in the State, Mr. Bommai said.

An affidavit has been filed in the Supreme Court on the requirement of 12 tmcft water for drinking purposes in the State. Live water storage level in Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir was 6.9 tmcft, Hemavathi (5.4 tmcft) and Kabini (1.1 tmcft), while the live storage in Mettur dam was 8.4 tmcft and Bhavani reservoir was 3.1 tmcft, Mr. Bommai said.

Mr. Shettar and Mr. Bommai said that in the past the Supreme Court directives were accompanied by a schedule to release the water over a period of time. “This time the order is for forthwith release and this is of grave concern.”

Both refuted the Opposition charge that the government had failed to provide to the Supreme Court full details of the grave shortage of water Karnataka was facing following failure of monsoon.

The State government would take an all-party delegation to New Delhi to apprise the UPA government about the ground realities on water shortage in the State. Mr. Bommai alleged that after Jayalalithaa took over as Chief Minister, the Tamil Nadu government stepped up pressure on the Centre to release Cauvery water.

Mr. Shettar rejected Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah’s demand for change of lawyers appearing for Karnataka on Cauvery issue and said the advocates have been placing all the facts on the existing situation, including on drinking water problem and drought conditions. “In spite of this, the court has given instructions to release water,” he said.

Mr. Siddaramaiah and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Revanna demanded that the government not release water. Janata Dal (Secular) members staged a dharna for a brief period urging that water should not be released.