Cauvery Supervisory Committee meets in Delhi on June 1

Tamil Nadu is expected to ask for the release of about 3.3 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) of Cauvery water when the Cauvery Supervisory Committee meets in New Delhi on June 1.

The State will want the quantum of water to be released in the first 10 days of June. As per the final order of the Cauvery Tribunal, Tamil Nadu is to get 10 tmc ft in June which should be broken to periods of 10-day each.

Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishnan had written earlier this week to Union Water Resources Secretary requesting him to convene the first meeting of the Committee to decide the flows as prescribed in the final order. In the meeting, the State may also rise the issue of getting cleared the shortfall of about 53 tmcft, a quantum of water that should have been realised by Tamil Nadu in the current water year (June 2012-May 2013) as per a distress sharing formula.

Even though the Union government’s notification on the supervisory panel being formed has not fully met Tami Nadu’s demand for the early formation of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB), the State can draw solace from the fact that at least, an institutional mechanism has been put in place to ensure implementation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final order.

Ever since the final order was published in the Centre’s gazette in February this year, the State had been urging the Union government to set up the CMB, an implementation mechanism suggested in the final order. Even a week ago, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this issue. The latest development follows the Supreme Court’s order of May 10, directing the Union government to constitute Supervisory Committee, headed by Union Water Resources Secretary. The order was made on an application filed by the Tamil Nadu government in March, seeking the CMB formation.

The move has put to rest concerns among farmers and water experts in the State about the likelihood of a vacuum, as the Cauvery River Authority, an implementation mechanism for the Tribunal’s interim order, had ceased to exist after the notification of the final order. “Now, we have a forum where we can present our issues,” says a water expert who wishes to remain anonymous.

But, there are voices of reservation over the development. A. Mohanakrishnan, former Advisory (Water Resources) in the State government, wonders what is the difficulty for the Central government to constitute the CMB, when it sets up a panel as an interim measure. “Is it because of lack of competent persons in the country,” he asks. There should be no delay in setting up the Board.

As for inclusion of Chief Secretaries of the Cauvery basin States in the new panel, he suggests that Secretaries looking after water resources in the respective States be made members of the panel instead of Chief Secretaries who are even otherwise loaded with enormous responsibilities.

Echoing his view, S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, feels that the Chief Secretaries will not be able to devote their time fully to the Cauvery dispute. But, his objection to the new panel is fundamental. He says it will be of no use and the Board should be constituted immediately. He contends that the Centre does not have to be bothered about litigation pending before the Supreme Court or the Tribunal as issues raised by the States have no objection to the basic aspects of the final order but only incidental features.