J. Venkatesan

Actual release of water by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu to be 192 tmcft annually

New Delhi: The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gave its keenly awaited final award on Monday setting out the share of waters of the Cauvery among the riparian States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, and the Union Territory of Puducherry. The proceedings over the politically sensitive issue went on for more than 16 years.

The Tribunal, comprising chairman Justice N.P. Singh and members N.S. Rao and Sudhir Narain, in a unanimous award determined the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin at 740 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) at the Lower Coleroon Anicut site on the basis of 50 per cent dependability. And, in a balancing act it apportioned the total as follows: For Tamil Nadu, 419 tmcft (as against the demand of 562 tmcft); Karnataka 270 tmcft (as against its demand of 465 tmcft); Kerala 30 tmcft and Puducherry 7 tmcft. The quantum reserved for environmental protection is 10 tmcft, and that determined for inevitable "escapages" into the sea is 4 tmcft.

The Tribunal, constituted on June 2, 1990, in an interim award on June 25, 1991, had directed Karnataka to release 205 tmcft each year to Tamil Nadu at Mettur. Of this, Tamil Nadu was to release 6 tmcft to Puducherry.

As per the final award, Tamil Nadu's share to be released by Karnataka at the Billigundulu gauging station is 182 tmcft, in addition to 10 tmcft for environmental purposes. From this 192 tmcft, Tamil Nadu will release 7 tmcft to Puducherry. The Tribunal's award will come into effect within 90 days of its notification by the Centre.

The order said that the available utilisable waters during a water year (June 1 to May 31) would include those carried over from the previous water year as assessed on June 1 on the basis of storage on that date in all the reservoirs concerned, with an effective storage capacity of 3 tmcft and above.

The order directed that "any upper riparian State shall not take any action so as to affect the scheduled deliveries of water to the lower riparian States. However, the States concerned can by mutual agreement and in consultation with the Regulatory Authority make any amendment in the pattern of water deliveries."

It added: "In case the yield of [the] Cauvery basin is less in a distress year, the allocated shares shall be proportionately reduced among the States of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry."

The Centre set up in 1998 the Cauvery River Authority, headed by the Prime Minister, to monitor the implementation of the interim award. However, Tamil Nadu insisted that the Tribunal evolve a mechanism to implement the final award effectively. Accordingly, the Tribunal in its order has directed that a Regulatory Authority be set up to monitor releases for a period of five years with the help of the States concerned and the Central Water Commission. If, thereafter, any modification or adjustment was needed in the schedule, it might be worked out in consultation with the party-States and the help of the CWC for future adoption. But this has to be done without changing the annual allocations.

The award says the use of underground waters by any of the riparian States and Puducherry should not be reckoned as use of Cauvery water.

The Tribunal said that whenever any hydel project was commissioned and water was stored in a reservoir, the pattern of downstream releases should be consistent with the final order, so that the irrigation requirements were not jeopardised.

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