The Karnataka government, which has stopped the release of 9000 cusecs of Cauvery water due to Tamil Nadu every day — defying the decision of the Cauvery Water Authority and the Supreme Court — should be dealt with strongly under the law. The Centre should invoke Article 356 in Karnataka, as rightly pointed out by the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi.
Whether it is the Cauvery or the Mullaperiyar issue, the root cause of the problem is the historical injustice meted out to the people of Karnataka and Kerala during the British rule (Madras presidency) through unfair water-sharing agreements. The agreements were not signed between democratically elected governments. After Independence and the reorganisation of States, new regions of Karnataka became part of the Cauvery basin and some areas of Tamil Nadu no more remained part of the basin. Some parts of Kerala are also now part of the basin. So, harping on old agreements defies logic. One long-term solution could be to scrap the archaic agreements and evolve a comprehensive national water policy based on a just and equitable principle. Such a policy should be institutionalised and binding on all member States.
The water-sharing crisis arises when the monsoon fails. When there is a good monsoon, surplus water flows down the dams of Karnataka and discharges into sea through Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu should consider building a series of check dams across the downstream stretches of Cauvery to store this excess water.
Tamil Nadu’s hardened stand that it should secure its share of water at any cost is disturbing. We are neighbouring States of the same country. The dispute cannot be settled in court rooms. The Chief Ministers of both States should approach the problem with an open mind. Frank and selfless discussion can end the impasse.
Instead of protesting, calling for bandhs, and indulging in rhetoric, our leaders should see how similar water-sharing problems are solved in other parts of the world: Although the Danube flows through nine countries, 19 countries share the river water, 13 countries share the Congo River, 11 the Nile, nine countries the Amazon and six countries the Rhine. But two States in India have been fighting over the Cauvery water for decades. How unfortunate!
M.M. Ram Athreya,
Much of the water-sharing problem can be solved if Karnataka and Tamil Nadu agree to limit their area under irrigation-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane to one season, and grow alternative crops like ragi, maize, pulses, oil seeds, etc., in the other two seasons. By switching over to less water demanding crops, even the area under irrigation can be increased. Horticultural crops, traditionally water-intensive, can be made less so by adopting drip irrigation practices. But for all this to happen, politicisation of the issue must stop.