Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah Friday said the Centre needed to play a “greater and more proactive” role on water-related issues, especially when it came to resolving inter-state disputes.
But he stopped short of supporting suggestions that the subject of water needed to be moved to the Concurrent list from the State list, where it is now. “I have not given adequate thought to these kind of suggestions,” he said.
As the Supreme Court continued to remain unmoved to his state’s plea on release of Cauvery river waters to Tamil Nadu, Siddaramaiah suggested inter-state sharing of waters should be dealt with through a “clear national policy” and not by courts.
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“I think the Centre should frame a separate national policy to deal exclusively with sharing of waters and inter-state disputes. I believe the Centre has a much greater and proactive role to play in resolving such disputes. Otherwise, situations like the one we are faced with will continue and people will suffer,” he told The Indian Express.
The Centre did convene a meeting of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Thursday, on the directions of the Supreme Court, but no breakthrough could be achieved.
Siddaramaiah said Karnataka had no intention of denying Tamil Nadu its share of water.
“We have been sharing Cauvery waters for several years. We have always released water, whatever is due. But come and look at our reservoirs, we do not have any water to release at this time. The fact is that there has not been enough rain in the catchment areas this year and that is not hidden from anyone. We are not hoarding water. The only thing we are trying to ensure is that our people are not deprived of drinking water,” he said.
He said Karnataka had been repeatedly asking for an expert body to come and assess the water situation in the state, but even the Supreme Court had remained unconvinced till now on this proposal. “Let the experts come and decide whether what we are saying is correct or not,” he said.
He hinted that Karnataka could have been inclined to accept the decision of the Supreme Court-mandated Supervisory Committee on Cauvery, which had asked the state to release 3,000 cusec of water throughout the day from September 21 to September 30. “But that order (of the committee) was changed the next day by the Supreme Court, and doubled to 6,000 cusecs. We did not have that much water to release,” he said.
Siddaramaiah said the current deadlock could slowly defuse once Tamil Nadu starts receiving rain through the north-east monsoon, but such disputes between other states were likely to continue.
“That is why I want the central government to quickly initiate a dialogue with all the states towards framing a national policy on water (disputes). I have had a conversation with Umaji (Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati) on this. I have also written a letter to the Prime Minister and sought an appointment. A national policy, according to me, is the only solution,” he said.