‘Release at least 1 tmcft of water daily to Tamil Nadu till CRA meeting’

With Karnataka strongly resisting a suggestion to release at least one tmcft of water daily to Tamil Nadu till the September 19 meeting of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA), the Supreme Court on Friday asked the State to reply by Monday to Tamil Nadu’s plea for supply of 2 tmcft daily.

Earlier, a Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and Madan B. Lokur recorded a letter produced by Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval on the CRA meeting, convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan and counsel G. Umapathy urged the court to direct Karnataka to release 2 tmcft daily until the CRA took a decision.

Mr. Vaidyanathan pointed to similar orders of September 2002 and February 2003, and wanted a directive to Karnataka to release water. Tamil Nadu farmers had lost one crop and samba cultivation, which was delayed, should commence at least by mid-September. For this, supply from the Mettur dam had to be ensured. As per the distress formula, Tamil Nadu’s deficit stood at 26 tmcft.

A directive was necessary to enable Tamil Nadu to at least commence samba cultivation with water from the Mettur dam; otherwise, it would seriously jeopardise the State’s agricultural operations.

Mr. Vaidyanathan said: “This year is the worst… in terms of storage. Please look at the human problem and the plight of farmers. If water is not released now and released in late September, it will be of no use. The northeast monsoon will commence in October and the lands will be filled with water. Karnataka is holding up water and not a single drop has been released. Whatever we get is the spillover from the Kabini and K.R. Sagar [dams]…This is not the way a State should behave when the other State is facing a human problem.”

At this juncture, Justice Jain suggested to senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Karnataka, that the State consider releasing at least one tmcft until the CRA took a decision.

However, Mr. Divan, along with counsel Mohan Katarki, strongly resisted the suggestion, arguing that Tamil Nadu was giving wrong figures. As on June 1 of this water year, he said, the Mettur dam had admittedly about 40 tmcft. Of the remaining 85 tmcft required (125 tmcft minus 40 tmcft), 16 tmcft had gone down till August 20 and the rest was expected to flow down through Biligundlu (the last point in the State where the Central Water Commission has a gauging station) by December-end.

Mr. Divan said: “Even in the bad years of 1987-88, 1995-96, 2002-03 2003-04 and 2004-05 about 70 tmcft, 135 tmcft, 82 tmcft, 62 tmcft, and 131 tmcft was measured during the period from August to December by the CWC… at Biligundlu.

“Between Biligundlu and the Mettur reservoir, about 25 tmcft is normally generated and it is available to Tamil Nadu. Asking Karnataka to release water… by mechanically applying the distress formula till September-end will result in Tamil Nadu ending up [with] more water than its due share, and that is its game plan.”