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Bridge over Cauvery

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu miss the big picture as they spar over building more dams over a depleted river.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: May 2, 2015 12:00:06 am

Karnataka’s insistence on building two more dams on the Cauvery could lead to a showdown with Tamil Nadu. Political mobilisations have begun in both states for and against the dam. On Thursday, an all-party delegation from Karnataka led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to argue the state’s case and seek the Centre’s help in building the dam. Earlier this week, an all-party team from Tamil Nadu had met the PM to impress that state’s viewpoint. Bandhs have been observed in both states in the past few weeks on the issue.

Tamil Nadu is justifiably apprehensive that the proposed dams at Mekedatu, close to the state border, would impact the flow into the Mettur Dam, the state’s main storage system from which waters are channelised to the fields of the Cauvery delta downstream. Karnataka’s stance — that it need not address Tamil Nadu’s concerns since the dams will come up in its territory — appears both insensitive and impractical.

Both states need to talk it out, and now. States should not conceive dam projects unilaterally and the needs of the entire river basin must be taken into consideration when they are planned. Political parties in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also need to reconsider their strategy of working up subnationalist mobilisations over river projects. With early predictions indicating a weak monsoon, creating a scare scenario over water is best avoided.

The Cauvery waters have been a bone of contention for the four southern states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry — that fall in the river’s basin. Though the Centre has notified the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award on each state’s share of the river, both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have challenged the allocation. Both states want more water, but the question is: Can the river satisfy the need — or greed — of two states? The 765 km-long river has been exploited to the hilt across its length, so much so that it has been reduced to a patchwork of shallow outlets at its mouth. The cultivated area fed by the Cauvery — most of it under water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane — has been expanding, stretching the river’s resources. Better water management and more judicious selection of crops could help conserve the scarce water. The Cauvery is a living ecosystem and must be managed as such. Or else, it could slowly die.

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First published on: 02-05-2015 at 12:00:02 am
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