Once the Union government publishes the award in gazette this month-end

The stage will be set for the constitution of a mechanism to implement the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal as soon as the Union government publishes the award in its gazette this month end.

The establishment of the implementation mechanism becomes crucial if the award, delivered by the Tribunal in February 2007, were to come into force from next water year, beginning June 2013.

No time frame

Experts, who have been following the Cauvery dispute for years, say that the Inter-State Water Disputes Act [under which the Tribunal was set up] has not prescribed any time limit for the establishment of the implementation machinery, even though it is common knowledge that a few more months may be required to carry out the process.

One of the experts is of the view that the absence of any reference to the time frame should not be a matter of concern as the Union government has made up its mind to notify the award which, in effect, means that a scheme has to be framed for the implementation. As no scheme can operate in vacuum, the implementation machinery will be put in place sooner than later. The job becomes easier in view of the Tribunal laying down, in its final award, the nature and composition of the implementation machinery.

An important stipulation of the process is that details on the proposed scheme have to be furnished to both Houses of Parliament. However, the law does not provide for seeking approval of the Houses, the expert clarifies.

Two forums

As per the final award, two forums, comprising representatives of all Basin States and officials of Central governments, have been suggested.

The forum at the apex level — Cauvery Management Board (CMB) — will have three whole time persons — Chairperson and two Members, one for irrigation and another for agriculture or agronomy. There will be six part-time Members, two of whom are nominees of the Union Ministries of Water Resources and Agriculture. The remaining four part-time Members will be one each from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.

This has been modelled on the lines of Bhakra Beas Management Board, which, since May 1976, is engaged in regulation of the supply of water and power from Bhakra Nangal and Beas Projects to the States of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh besides Delhi and Chandigarh.

The other forum is the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC), which has to be constituted by the CMB.

To be headed by the CMB’s Irrigation Member, the Committee will have representatives of Central Water Commission, Meteorological Department and Union Agriculture Ministry, apart from officials of the Basin States.

For all practical purposes, it is the Committee which will ensure the implementation of the final award, even though the CWRC will function under the CMB.

An important implication of the notification of the award will be that there will be representatives of the Board at each of eight reservoirs on the Cauvery Basin — Hemavathy, Harangi, Krishnarajasagar, Kabini [all in Karnataka], Mettur, Bhavanisagar, Amaravathy [all in Tamil Nadu] and Banasurasagar [in Kerala] — who will monitor proper execution of the instructions to be issued by the CWRC. The reservoirs will have to be operated in an integrated manner by the States concerned under the overall guidance of the CMB for each ten-day period throughout the year to meet water requirements of the States and Puducherry for a host of needs including irrigation and hydropower.

The settled position is that till the final award comes into effect, the interim order of 1991 remains in force.

Under the 2007 award, the allocation for Tamil Nadu has been determined at 419 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft), of which 182 tmc ft is to be released by Karnataka as per a monthly schedule over 12 months, starting from June. The quantum earmarked for Tamil Nadu is to be made available at Billigundlu on the inter-State border.

As per an estimate, the net realisation at the Mettur reservoir in Tamil Nadu will be 217 tmc ft, after taking into account 10 tmc ft to be discharged by Karnataka for environmental protection and 25 tmc ft to be contributed by intermediate catchment between Billigundlu and Mettur.