Water War – Cauvery River Water Dispute

As the saying goes, ‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.’ Our blue planet was able to sustain life because of the presence of water. Water has played a crucial role in civilising ‘human civilisation’ and people use to settle on banks of river and foundation of towns like Varanasi, Ayodhya, Patna, Prayagraj etc. were laid on the banks of rivers. Human society has come a long way through and today has developed to the extent that we are in search of water on other solar bodies as water on our own blue planet is depleting! Water consumption has significantly increased with time and with global warming and rapid consumption of natural resources supply of water has also been gradually decreasing. Today 1.1 billion people lack access to water and water is vanishing from major cities of world like Banglore, Cape town.

Once scarcity exists and resource becomes limited, the war to fetch that resource starts. Entities have fought for resources and there have been wars for land, opium, oil. Now there are predictions about world war 3 happening over the issue of water and the water which was taught as an example of unlimited resources has suddenly turned into element of war. We have rising global power like China showing dominance globally by blocking water of several states and threatening to dry the regions out through water war.

India also has been witnessing conflict between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka since long time and issue still has not been solved. Kaveri also known as Cauvery is 805 km long river flowing through states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Many places in both states depend on, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu depend on Kaveri for irrigation and the city of Bengaluru gets its water from the river. Kaveri has 44,000 km2 basin area in Tamil Nadu and 32,000 km2 basin area in Karnataka. The inflow from Tamil Nadu is 252 TMCft (Thousand Million Cubic feet) and inflow from Karnataka is 425 TMCft. Based on the inflow Karnataka is demanding its due share of water from the river. The Kaveri water dispute dates back to British Raj and began in the year 1892 when princely state of Mysore and Madras Presidency which was under British control couldn’t agree over division of share of water. None of the states could reach an agreement and British presided over the issue and in 1924, Madras Presidency and State of Mysore signed an agreement in regard to construction of a dam and reservoir at Krishnarajasagara.

The agreement gave both the states right to use surplus water from river Kaveri. Madras was against the construction of KRS dam and only agreed to it once Madras was given freedom to construct Mettur Dam. The 1924 Agreement gave 75% of surplus water to Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu and the 23% to state of Karnataka and remaining 2% was given to Kerala for irrigation. Post-independence several protests have occurred in the state of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu which also has resulted in violence. Karnataka argues that 50-year time period for 1924 agreement ended in 1974 and thus disposes the regulations off the state and also since the river originates from Karnataka it should have an edge over usage of water. Tamil Nadu on the other hand is majorly dependent on the river Kaveri for agricultural purposes and thus argues that this would wipe off the agricultural sector from the state.

Cauvery water dispute case is a classic example showcasing complicated scenario of river water management and governance in India. When there is shortage, when developmental projects grow, and riparian States do not enjoy equal access to the source, inter-state problems are bound to rise in sharing. Then the dispute goes on and there seems to be no solution in sight. Selfish motive and political consideration come in the way of proper decision. To find a solution acceptable to both the contesting states is very difficult. however it is the need of the hour that chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu adopt the policy of give and take, rise above the selfish motives of their respective states, give due consideration to the difficulties of each other and work in all earnestness for a viable and mutually beneficial formula for distress sharing. There have been protests since long and people have been fighting over this issue  and this dispute has created clash between the two communities and today we must realise that water has no colour and water in universal throughout the world and we humans should embrace the universality and beauty of water into our lives instead of creating wars and dispute of water which gives lives to our blue planet.

This article is authored by Praveen Sharma, student of B.A.LL.B at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai.

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