In the first meeting between the Chief Ministers of the two States in nearly 15 years, Jagadish Shettar and Jayalalithaa exchanged pleasantries and flower bouquets before beginning their discussions on sharing the limited quantum of water available in the four Cauvery basin reservoirs in Karnataka.
As was evident, the two Chief Ministers had done considerable study before the talks. Sources in the State government told The Hindu that Ms. Jayalalithaa heard the suggestions put across by Mr. Shettar, but did not react. Her focus was primarily on the immediate release of water to save the samba crop in Tamil Nadu.
The meeting scheduled to last at least an hour ended much earlier, with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister making a quick exit. On behalf of the Karnataka government, it was clarified that “it was not a walkout and that Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai was at hand to see her off”.
While Ms. Jayalalithaa outlined the grim water situation in the Cauvery delta, Karnataka felt there could be a fresh assessment of the situation after the north-east monsoon.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said during the talks aimed at finding a way out of the impasse over sharing water during a distress year that the present storage in the Stanley Reservoir in Mettur was only 6.34 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft), apart from five tmc ft of dead storage and another five tmc ft required for drinking water, which would suffice only for six days. “The standing samba crop is under serious threat,” she said.
Karnataka Minister for Water Resources Basavaraj Bommai, who participated in the discussions, said: “While the monsoon has ended here, it is imperative for us to judiciously use the available water. On the contrary, the north-east monsoon is still active in Tamil Nadu and the State can hope to receive good inflows. There is a distress in both the States calling for a fresh assessment at the end of the north-east monsoon”.
Among the others who participated in the discussions were the Deputy Chief Minister, R.Ashok who is also the Minister for Home, Suresh Kumar, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, the Chief Secretary to the State Government, S.V.Ranganath and the Principal Secretary (water resources) D.Sathyamurthy and the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Pradeep Kharola.
The Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Rammohan Rao, was also present along with several irrigation advisors to the Tamil Nadu Government.