Delay causes concern in Karnataka

BANGALORE, JULY 20. The S.M. Krishna Government is troubled over the fact that the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal has not pronounced its final award even a decade after it was constituted.

Legal pundits have predicted that it would take three to four years more for the tribunal to give its final order, mainly because it was still recording evidence. The inordinate delay in the declaration of the final award buttresses the Karnataka Government's stand that the Cauvery dispute could be amicably resolved through a negotiated settlement within a reasonable time-frame. The Chief Ministers of the three riparian States are not oblivious to this reality, but political compulsions seem to have rendered them helpless.

The Chief Minister, Mr. S.M. Krishna, has agreed to release 6 tmcft water to Tamil Nadu to make good the outflow deficit in June as per the tribunal's interim award. This was agreed upon at the meeting of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) in Delhi presided over by the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee. Mr. Krishna had said that compliance was not difficult owing to copious rains in the catchment areas of the Cauvery basin reservoirs in the State. He also pointed out that in June and July, it was difficult for Karnataka to adhere to the calendar of release of water to Tamil Nadu. It has to release 205 tmcft annually from June to May in equal weekly instalments. The reservoirs in the Cauvery basin are usually depleted in June and July as it is the beginning of the onset of the southwest monsoon. Karnataka had been making repeated pleas before the tribunal and the CRA that Biligundlu should be the last point for measuring the release of water to Tamil Nadu. This issue was once again raised by Mr. Krishna during the recent CRA meeting.

Karnataka is perturbed over the fact that the Monitoring Committee, formed to assist the CRA in the implementation of the Cauvery Water Scheme, had failed to install a modern hydrometrological network for accurate measurement of the outflows from Karnataka. A computer-aided control room is a pre- requisite for precisely processing the quantum of outflows.

Incidentally, Karnataka, between June 1999 and May 2000, had released 273.18 tmcft water to Tamil Nadu as per the water flows recorded by the Central Water Commission (CWC) at Biligundlu. The inflow of water recorded at Mettur Dam during the same period was 267.54 tmc ft. Thus, during the last water year, Tamil Nadu received an excess of 67.54 tmcft, mainly because of adequate rainfall. There are clear signs that a good monsoon will once again come to the rescue of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu during the current year.

Karnataka's contention from the beginning had been that the interim award of the tribunal, directing it to release 205 tmcft water each year, did not pass the test of ``reasonableness or fairness'' in the absence of consideration of the dependability factor.

According to an eminent jurist and former Judge of the Karnataka High Court, Mr. Justice H.G. Balakrishna, the tribunal had not taken into account the loss of water due to evaporation and percolation between the Karnataka border and Mettur Dam. He pointed out that guided by incorrect data, ``the flawed assumption'' of the tribunal was that if the water flows were very good for two years, the losses were excluded from consideration. In hydrological terms, 50 per cent dependability meant that the stipulated water flow was likely to be available once in two years and 100 per cent dependability meant it would be available each year. According to him, Karnataka had become the victim of an ``unfair and unreasonable order.''