Stating that the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a “higher pedestal”, the Supreme Court on Friday increased the share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) and reduced Tamil Nadu’s share while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmc groundwater from the river basin.
With today’s ruling, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Union Territory Puducherry would be annually entitled to 404.25 tmc, 284.75 tmc, 30 tmc and 7 tmc of Cauvery water respectively out of a total of 740 tmc. Additionally, 10 tmc of water would be used for environmental protection and 4 tmc would be kept for “inevitable escapages” into the sea.
The politically-sensitive issue was adjudicated by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 2007. The tribunal’s order was challenged by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. On February 19, 2013, the CWDT had allocated 419 tmc, 270 tmc, 30 tmc and 7 tmc of water yearly to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, respectively.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra justified the increase in Karnataka’s share by citing the principle on drinking water and the “global status” acquired by the state capital and the IT city of Bengaluru. “Drinking water requirement of the overall population of all the states has to be placed on a higher pedestal as we treat it as a hierarchically fundamental principle of equitable distribution,” the bench said.
“The tribunal had drastically reduced the share of Karnataka towards domestic and industrial purpose for the reason being that only 1/3rd of the city of Bengaluru falls within the river basin and also on the presumption that 50 per cent of the drinking water requirement would be met from groundwater supply.
“The said view taken by the tribunal ignores the basic principle pertaining to drinking water and is, thus unsustainable. Keeping in mind the global status that the city has attained, an addition of 4.75 tmc is awarded to Karnataka,” the bench, also comprising Justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, added.
The bench also called upon the Centre to formulate a scheme to ensure compliance of its 465-page judgement within six weeks. Its ruling modified the CWDT award and made it clear that it will not be extending time for this on any ground. It said the order on Cauvery water allocation will continue for the next 15 years.
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Karnataka will now have to release 177.25 tmc of water at the inter-state border with Tamil Nadu at Billigundulu.
The verdict has also come as a major boost for the ruling Congress in Karnataka, where elections are due in April. The river is a symbol of pride for the people of southern Karnataka, where the dispute has often descended into violence.
Here’s how politicians have reacted:
Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah expressed satisfaction over the apex court’s ruling. “We have got some relief, so somewhere we are happy with this verdict,” Siddaramaiah was quoted as saying by ANI.
Former Karnataka CM and state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa, on the other hand, said if BJP wins the forthcoming assembly elections, it will undertake steps for the rejuvenation of Cauvery. “The demand for water is only going to increase in the coming years. When BJP comes to power, we shall work towards increasing the Green Cover in western ghats. It is important to preserve & increase the forest cover of Kodagu to ensure the rejuvenation of Cauvery,” he tweeted.
Tamil Nadu CM K Palaniswami said his party will announce its next action plan after initiating a detailed discussion with experts on the ruling. “We will do our best to ensure that our rights are restored and the best in the Cauvery issue is done,” Palaniswami was quoted as saying by ANI. “We appreciate the fact that SC said that no one was an owner of the resources but everyone has equal rights over a river. Considering the ground water level and reducing the water allotment for Tamil Nadu from 192 TMC to 177.25 TMC is disappointing.”
AIADMK stated that its government would continue efforts to get an adequate share of Cauvery water even as the opposition slammed the ruling government over the alleged inept handling of the case in the Supreme Court. “Our government will continue its fight to get adequate water for Tamil Nadu,” AIADMK MP M Navaneethakrishnan was quoted as saying by PTI.
Describing the verdict as shocking, DMK working president M K Stalin said the party strongly condemned the K Palaniswami government for not submitting appropriate evidence before the Supreme Court to get adequate water.
The verdict was welcomed by Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy who said it ensured the Union Territory would continue to receive seven tmc for Karaikal region lying at the tail-end of the river basin.
Film star Kamal Haasan, who is set to take a political plunge, called on both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to maintain amity in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. While expressing disappointment over the apex court awarding lower quantum of water to Tamil Nadu as against the demand, he said the consoling factor was that the court had maintained that the rivers are common and do not belong to anybody. “I am disappointed that Tamil Nadu has got a lower share of water but I think it is also important that we conserve and utilise the water that has been apportioned to the state.”
Actor Rajnikanth also termed as “very disappointing” the SC verdict reducing the quantum of water to Tamil Nadu from Cauvery river and urged the state government to file a review petition. “Since the final verdict by the Supreme Court on the Cauvery water sharing amounts to further affecting the livelihood of the farmers in Tamil Nadu, it is very disappointing,” he said in a tweet.
With PTI inputs