SC notice to Centre on TN’s plea

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre, the States of Karnataka and Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry on an application from Tamil Nadu for a direction to the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) so as to effectively implement the final order of the Cauvery Tribunal during the irrigation season commencing from June 1.

A Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Kurian Joseph issued notice after hearing senior counsel for Tamil Nadu C.S. Vaidyanathan and senior counsel Anil Divan for Karnataka, and sought replies in 10 days.

Tamil Nadu in its application said “the area and the extent of allocation made in the final award in February 2007 among the States from the dependable yield of 740 tmcft determined by the Tribunal are: Kerala 30 tmcft; Karnataka 270 tmcft; Tamil Nadu 419 tmcft; Union Territory of Puducherry 7 tmcft; water requirement for environmental protection 10 tmcft and inevitable escapes into sea 4 tmcft. Of this Karnataka should release every year 192 tmcft to Tamil Nadu from its reservoirs.

It said the Tribunal was of the view that there was a need for setting up an appropriate mechanism and recommended an independent machinery to implement its decision.

It recommended for the constitution of the CMB and the CWRC with the roles, functions, powers etc. It said the Central government was mandated to constitute the Board simultaneously with the gazette notification of the final award of the Tribunal dated February 19.

It was expected that the Centre would also constitute the CWRC so that the decision of the Tribunal was given effect to without having to move this court from time to time. However, this hope was belied necessitating the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to send communications requesting the intervention of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Water Resources.

Contending that no steps had been taken so far to constitute the Board and the CWRC, the State said it was filing the present application.

Tamil Nadu said the storage at Mettur reservoir as on March 13 was only about 7 tmcft. Even with the anticipated inflows for March to May, the storage built up at Mettur reservoir would not be adequate to open the reservoir on June 12 for cultivation operation in the age-old delta irrigation catering for over a million acres. It was therefore essential to ensure flows as per stipulated releases in the final order were adhered so that at least during 2013-14, the irrigation in delta “does not suffer for the second consecutive year which will seriously prejudice the farming community in the delta.”

It sought a direction to the Ministry of Water Resources for constituting the Cauvery Management Board so that the final award was implemented in letter and spirit by all the party States.