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Karnataka, where the Cauvery is in spate

The Cauvery at the Wellesley Bridge near Srirangapatna in Karnataka’s Mandya district on July 18, 2018.

The Cauvery at the Wellesley Bridge near Srirangapatna in Karnataka’s Mandya district on July 18, 2018.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

After four years of deficit rains, it is a season of plenty in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka, which has brought much cheer to farmers — and neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

How much rain has it got?

According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), the cumulative rainfall for Kodagu district, where the Cauvery originates, for the period from June 1 to July 19, is 1,722 mm, against the normal of 1,210 mm, an excess of 42%. The cumulative rainfall from June 1 to July 31 last year was 942 mm, against the normal of 1,547 mm, a deficit of 38%. Heavy rain in adjoining Hassan and Wayanad district of Kerala helped augment the flow to the Hemavathi and Kabini rivers. So the major dams across the Cauvery in Karnataka — Krishnaraja Sagar (Mandya district), Kabini (Mysuru district), Hemavathi (Hassan district) and Harangi (Kodagu district) — were full by the second week of July. The level in the KRS, the biggest of the four, hovered over 124.10 feet against the full level of 124.80 feet on July 20, against 78.20 feet on the same day last year.

What does it mean for farmers?

Farmers in the region were denied water for paddy and sugarcane cultivation because of inadequate storage in the reservoirs last year. In Mandya, the paddy and sugarcane bowl of the region, the acreage under paddy shrunk from nearly 68,000 hectares to around 2,500 hectares last year because of the drought. This is set to change this year.

How much has been released?

According to the KSNDMC, the cumulative discharge from the Kabini reservoir from June 1 to July 19 is 58 tmc ft, and it is 32.20 tmc ft from the KRS. The flow into the Mettur dam as on July 20 stood at 81.339 tmc ft. The discharge from the Mettur dam was 500 cusecs till June 30. It was 1,000 cusecs from July 1 to 18, and when the dam was opened on July 19, it was increased to 2,000 cusecs. The discharge was further increased to 20,000 cusecs as on July 20. This year, the realisation from the Cauvery has been bountiful for Tamil Nadu, though a section of farmers has questioned the decision to open the Mettur dam on July 19, believing it would affect the prospect of the crop.

Overall, the scenario is bright and the result of good rain is that Karnataka is confident of sharing water with the lower riparian State of Tamil Nadu. Karnataka has to ensure 177.25 tmc ft in a water year (June to May), the bulk of which has to be released between June and September. The available storage in all the four dams in Karnataka was 99.29 tmc ft as on July 19. This is in contrast to the combined storage of 23.38 tmc ft on the same day last year. On the political front, the current scenario eases the position of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to a large extent as water sharing in distress years has flared tempers between the two States. The successive governments have, in a year of distress, struggled to strike a balance in soothing farmers’ fears in the Cauvery heartland of Mandya, Mysuru, Ramanagaram and Hassan and meeting its obligation to Tamil Nadu.

What lies ahead?

This is the proverbial calm before another storm. Karnataka is opposed to the setting up of the Cauvery Water Management Authority and the Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee, as mandated by the Supreme Court in its order dated February 16, 2018. It has decided to challenge it legally on the grounds that constituting a monitoring committee would go against the State’s interests. On the environmental front, the forest cover in Kodagu is on the decline, as per the India State of Forests, 2017, report and environmentalists fear this will have a bearing on the quantum of rainfall and water yield. Besides, there are concerns that the proposed “development” projects, including a new rail line from Mysuru to Thalassery in Kerala through Kodagu, and highway projects cutting through the district can only exacerbate the situation. With booming population and towns in the Cauvery basin, the demand for water will only increase against the declining supply.

R. Krishna Kumar

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 3:40:39 AM |

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