Protests outside the Bangalore residences of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna,Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj and Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar marked a near total but peaceful bandh against the release of Cauvery river water to neighbouring Tamil Nadu in the city and the southern districts of Karnataka on Saturday.
Bangalore,which receives most of its drinking water from Cauvery,remained completely shut through the day with the exception of a few essential services.
Incidentally Krishna,who hails from the Cauvery basin district of Mandya and who was at the helm of agitations against the release of the river water in 2002,has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reconsider the directive of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) to prevent damage to the interests of Karnataka. Headed by the PM,the CRA had directed Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water from September 20 to October 15.
In a letter to the PM released by his office,the Foreign Minister urges: I sincerely feel that the situation needs your immediate attention,if it is to be prevented from worsening,as there is already a strong feeling among people of Karnataka that they may have to face severe shortage of water in the months to come.
The Saturday bandh call was given by pro-Karnataka groups and farmer groups from the Cauvery basin districts in the state in protest against the CRA directive to Karnataka.
Since the release of water,the main Cauvery basin districts in Karnataka of Mandya,Mysore and Chamarajnagar have witnessed continuous protests,with transport along the 140-km Bangalore-Mysore highway in particular being disrupted.
The release of water to Tamil Nadu has seen the depletion of water levels in the main storage reservoir in the basin in Krishna Raja Sagar to around 96 feet against a maximum capacity of 124 feet,triggering fears of shortage of supplies for irrigation and drinking water in the main distribution period that extends from October to May.
The storage at Krishna Raja Sagar and the Kabini reservoir in the Cauvery basin as of September 30 was already below 15-year average levels.
The Saturday protests were joined by the association of Kannada film artistes,producers and workers as well as the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike,Jaya Karnataka and Karunada Sene.
The Karnataka government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a review of the CRA order,and the matter is slated to be taken up on October 8.