What’s happening?

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been locked in a decades-long dispute over sharing of water from the Cauvery river, with both States depending heavily on the river for irrigation and drinking water, with passions running high and violence breaking out off and on.

One such protest is being witnessed in Karnataka. On Wednesday, in Mandya, thousands of farmers attempted to lay siege to the Krishna Raja Sagar and Kabini dams to prevent the release of water to TamilNadu. Karnataka has been releasing 9,000 cusecs since September 30, following a Supreme Court order. They are also staging a relay hunger strike to press their demands.

What’s the background?

The Cauvery River Authority (CRA), headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has ruled that 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water should be released to Tamil Nadu till October 15. When Karnataka failed to comply with the order, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa moved the Supreme Court. On September 29, the Supreme Court slammed Karnataka for its inaction and ordered it to comply with the CRA’s order.

The Cauvery originates atTalakaveri,Kodaguin Karnataka, and flows throughKarnatakaandTamil Nadu. After many agreements and disagreements over the years over water-sharing, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2007.

It allocated 419 billion cubic feet of water annually to Tamil Nadu and 270 billion cubic feet to Karnataka. The CRA was set up to ensure implementation of the interim order of Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal.

Why is Karnataka unhappy?

Karnataka says that it does not receive its due share of water and that its rights are overlooked. Claiming an acute water shortage in the State, it says the agreements are flawed. Karnataka says the State needs at least 150 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water, but the reservoirs in the Cauvery basin have only 72 tmcft.

Why was Tamil Nadu not pleased with the CRA’s decision?

TamilNadu had sought release of 24,000 cusecs of water to irrigate 15 lakh acres of samba crop in the Cauvery delta, but was awarded only 9,000 cusecs.

Who’s Who?

Janata Dal (Secular): Expressing their solidarity with the farmers, five MLAs and one MP of the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), which is strong in the Cauvery belt, have offered to resign. H.D. Deve Gowda, former prime minister and president of the party has been in talks with the PM to highlight Karnataka’s case. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president and actor M.H. Ambareesh has also joined the protestors.

How has the Centre responded to the protest?

The Centre has sent a high-level team led by Union Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh to both States to study the ground situation. It will submit its report to the Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC), which will make recommendations on whether the quantity of water released be reduced after October 15.