Court should decide on Cauvery issue, they say

With the Cauvery dispute once again starting to generate heat in Karnataka, which is preparing for using the river's water for summer irrigation, a measure opposed by Tamil Nadu, farmers in Tamil Nadu are a worried lot.

Leaders in Karnataka, including Leader of the Opposition (Congress) in the Assembly Siddaramiah, have opposed the release of water to Tamil Nadu, on the ground that injustice had been done to their State in the final order passed by the Cauvery Tribunal in February 2007.

S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers' Association, while welcoming the decision of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to move the Supreme Court opposing Karnataka's summer irrigation strategy, lamented that the issue was coming up again only because the Supreme Court was yet to give a quietus to it.

Both States have filed clarification petitions before the Tribunal as well as filed appeals in the Supreme Court.

“It is more than five years since the Tribunal gave its final order. Now, with regard to Karnataka's appeal, the Supreme Court should decide whether it is going to give the final judgment or allow the Tribunal to decide it once again. Any further delay would exacerbate the friction between the two States,” Mr. Ranganathan said.

The Cauvery, he said, would not be able to satisfy the requirements of all the three States—Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry—because it is a deficit river.

“Whenever there is shortfall, we are left with no other option but to adjust without hurting the interest of any State. Distress sharing should be done on a pro rata basis of the quantum of release in the Cauvery specified by the Tribunal.”

Mr. Ranganathan warned that if Karnataka were to deplete its reservoirs now, it would jeopardise the kharif crop not only in Tamil Nadu but also Karnataka next year.

Puliyur Nagarajan, vice president of the Tamil Nadu Bharat Krishak Samaj and also Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (Agriculture wing), hit out at Karnataka leaders for their stand that a not drop of water should be released. “It is Karnataka which is violating the orders of the Tribunal by going in for summer irrigation which is explicitly prohibited.”

Mr. Nagarajan asserted that the Tribunal had been very clear that both the States should not use the water for irrigation after January 28, the date of closing of Mettur Dam. But Karnataka was trying to deplete its reservoirs for summer irrigation and keep them empty ahead of the South West Monsoon. This would automatically delay release of water to Tamil Nadu from Karnataka reservoirs.

“If the South West Monsoon doesn't set in on time, June first week, delta farmers would be in trouble because it would not be possible for Tamil Nadu to open Mettur Dam on June 12, delaying the raising of seven lakh acres of kuruvai crop,” he said.

However, the president of an NGO, who is familiar with the Cauvery imbroglio but is unwilling to be identified, said that summer crops had become a necessity for Karnataka and it had already expanded its area of cultivation by raising sugarcane.