The State of Karnataka has told the Supreme Court that Tamil Nadu has failed to understand that 2023 is not a normal water year, but a “distressed water year”.
Tamil Nadu’s plea for release of 24,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of Cauvery water every day is based on an erroneous assumption, Karnataka said in a 26-page affidavit made public on Thursday.
Karnataka said Tamil Nadu itself has stated that rainfall has decreased by 25% and the inflow into four reservoirs in Karnataka has dipped by 42.5% up to August 9, 2023, as per the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) records.
The State said the stipulated release of 36.76 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) for September had no legal basis. It said this was a quantity stipulated in the normal water year and not during a distress year.
Karnataka said the CWMA should not be directed to ensure flows stipulated during a normal water year when the Cauvery basin was apparently under distress with 23% less rainfall in the K.R. Sagar catchment and 22% low in the Kabini catchment.
Karnataka said there was no urgency as pleaded by Tamil Nadu on the ground of saving crops. It said there would be sufficient water for the cultivation of Kuruvai rice crop and the Samba rice crop was still at the transplantation stage.
The State said the proportionate or pro-rata sharing of Cauvery water in a distressed situation was not equitable. It sought further guidelines which includes the consideration of groundwater of 20 TMC available in the delta region of Tamil Nadu.
Karnataka stated that at the beginning of the water year, Tamil Nadu had the carryover storage of 69.777 TMC (as on June 1, 2023) and Karnataka had so far ensured 26.768 TMC (till August 22, 2023).
“The total water in the hands of Tamil Nadu should have been 96.545 TMC. However, Tamil Nadu has maintained a live storage of only 21.655 TMC as on August 22, 2023. It has drawn 69.777 TMC excessively,” Karnataka alleged. Water to the extent of 69.777 TMC has been “misused” by Tamil Nadu, it said.
The case is scheduled to be heard by a three-judge Bench headed by Justice B.R. Gavai on August 25.
Tamil Nadu has moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to Karnataka to forthwith release 24,000 cusecs of Cauvery water from its reservoirs at Billigundulu for the remaining period of the month, starting from August 14.
The State said the release of water was a dire necessity to meet the pressing demands of the standing crops.
Tamil Nadu has urged the court to direct Karnataka to ensure the stipulated release for the month of September 2023 (36.76 TMC) as per the Cauvery Tribunal award as modified by the Supreme Court in 2018.
The State said Karnataka should make good the shortfall of 28.849 TMC water during the current irrigation year for the period between June 1 to July 31.