Devising a water sharing treaty or agreement is a complex techno legal exercise but, a broad analysis can be made on what these deals are really and who benefits and who suffers. If we were to look at the Cauvery and Indus, one irresistible conclusion that arises in a common man is that Karnataka and India were wronged as upper riparian States by over jealous lower riparians.
Historically Cauvery was an international river which flowed from upper riparian princely State of Mysore to British Madras Presidency. Whereas, Indus was a national river flowed from Punjab province to Sind province. After independence and accession of Mysore in 1947 and reorganisation in 1956 the present Karnataka was established making Cauvery a national river, but partition in 1947, made Indus which was a national river into an international river.
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Despite the contrasting developments in Cauvery and Indus, the grievances in both are similar and have common cause. Karnataka cries pleading for fair share in the water generated in its territory. What India does in Indus is the same- It is asking for more water for meeting the needs in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. But what is the hitch? Why can’t upper States get their fair share?
The problem lies in the historic natural flow theory. The dynamics of river is that water flows by gravity; so as Cauvery and Indus. The lower riparians have delta irrigation by natural system using antique methods to cultivate water guzzling crops like rice. The upper riparians are recent users from middle of 19th century after the advent of high dam technology. The natural flow theory was developed in 19th century in response to lower riparians cries as a crying baby. If the water has to be allowed to flow in a state of nature, the upper States have to be silent spectators.
Tamil Nadu got 80% of Cauvery water and Pakistan secured 75% of Indus water. The Cauvery deal dictated by imperial forces in 1924 sitting in London and Indus brokered by World Bank in 1960 have only rationalised the natural flow theory. The equity or needs were never considered.
The time has come to get rid off both Cauvery and Indus deals based on natural flow theory and have a fresh look on what is the equitable or fair share of the upper and lower States to achieve equitable division of waters.