Karnataka's distress

Published : Sep 29, 2001 00:00 IST

KARNATAKA is hoping against hope that the monsoon rain, which has been scanty over most parts of the State, will resume and increase the inflows into the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS), Kabini, Harangi and Hemavathy reservoirs in the Cauvery Basin.

The State government maintains that the storage position in the reservoirs as on September 13 was 69 tmc ft compared to 88 tmc ft on the same day last year, and that the water is needed to meet the requirements of the standing crops in the command area, which includes 1.72 lakh hectares of paddy, 26,000 hectares of sugarcane, 76,800 hectares of semi dry crops and 6,400 hectares of grapes. Sugarcane and grapes require water until May.

Water Resources Minister H. K. Patel told Frontline: "If the rains come we may reach the magic figure of 205 tmc ft, the quantity of water that has to be made available at Tamil Nadu's Mettur reservoir from June to May as per the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's Interim order of 1991." He said that Karnataka had released 67 tmc ft of water until September 12.

Although Karnataka has not yet invoked the distress clause (under which distress will have to be shared by both States) in the interim order or ruled out any release of water to Tamil Nadu, widespread drought and insufficient inflows into the reservoirs have ensured that S. M. Krishna government is in no position to release water to Tamil Nadu until the State receives more rain.

Forty-two of the 48 taluks in the Cauvery basin are experiencing drought conditions. For the record, the government claims that 151 of the 175 taluks in the State have received scanty rainfall. Crop loss owing to an erratic southwest monsoon, according to official estimates, is around Rs.1,500 crores.

Karnataka admits that there is a shortfall of about 50 tmc ft in the quantum of water that had to be released into the Mettur reservoir by August every year, but contends that the Mettur Reservoir had as on September 18, 8.364 tmc ft of water, and, more important, 8,000 to 10,000 cusecs of water (about 1 tmc ft) had flowed into the reservoir on September 16 and 17 following heavy rain in the catchment areas. H.K. Patel, however, did not disclose whether Karnataka would continue to release 1 tmc ft of water every day until October-end as demanded by Tamil Nadu.

Faced with pleas from the Tamil Nadu government to release water for the delta farmers' kuruvai crop, a 46-member all-party delegation led by Chief Minister S.M. Krishna explained, in memoranda submitted on September 14 to President K.R. Narayanan and Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, and at the September 22 meeting of the Cauvery River Authority(CRA), the reasons for Karnataka's inability to concede the requests.

The memorandum in part alleged that Tamil Nadu, by its own admission before the Cauvery Water Monitoring Committee, had increased unilaterally the area under the kuruvai crop from 1.27 lakh acres (50,800 hectares) when the Cauvery Tribunal passed its Interim Order to 3.2 lakh acres (1.28 lakh hectares) in the current year. Karnataka is also of the view that Tamil Nadu does not require any more water for its crop if one went by the announcement in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that the paddy crop was ready for the collection of levy. Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister D. B. Chandre Gowda said: "If the levy is to be collected it can only mean that the crop has been harvested. Then where is the need for more water for the kuruvai crop? Does Tamil Nadu want to store water for the next crop?"

It was also pointed out in the memorandum that besides meeting irrigation requirements, the Cauvery had to meet the drinking water needs of major cities such as Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan and Tumkur.

Chief Secretary Teresa Bhattacharya said the primary reasons for the decreased flow into the Mettur reservoir were reduced inflows into the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, considered the lowest in five years, and the high rate of drawal by Karnataka's farmers in the command areas in view of the drought.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister M. Veerappa Moily said: "When water is not even available in Kodagu (where the Cauvery originates), how can we give water to Tamil Nadu? In Sakleshpur (Hassan district), where the Hemavathy flows, there are no green fields, only hillocks. Tamil Nadu has to see the reality of the situation. When our farmers have not been able even to raise one crop this year because of the scanty rainfall, Tamil Nadu is talking of the luxury of having a third kuruvai crop. Karnataka can cite the distress clause incorporated into the Cauvery Interim Award during my tenure and approach the Cauvery Tribunal."

But, curiously, Karnataka has refrained from taking resort to the distress clause. Patel said: "We are yet to crystallise our views on invoking the distress clause. Until now we have not done it. We are waiting and watching. We are expecting more rain. Otherwise both States will have to share the problem (of shortage of water)."

Karnataka also contends that Tamil Nadu should use its groundwater reserves in the Cauvery delta as an additional source of irrigation.

Krishna, who has been able to put up a common political front on the Cauvery issue, said that as Tamil Nadu's request was before the Prime Minister and the Cauvery Tribunal Authority, he would prefer to "wait and watch".

In an effort to look into "certain technical aspects of the Cauvery Basin reservoirs", a four-member expert committee of the Central Water Commission visited the Mettur, KRS, Kabini, Hemavathy and Harangi reservoirs in early September. The team has submitted its report to the Centre.

The question now is whether Vajpayee will be able to 'request' Krishna to release some water to Tamil Nadu. It may be recalled that his predecessor P. V. Narasimha Rao had pursuaded Chief Minister H.D. Deve Gowda to release around 6 tmc ft of water during the 1995-96 season.

Karnataka fears that it would become increasingly difficult for Tamil Nadu's farmers to raise three crops a year even if 300 tmc ft of water is released by the upper riparian State, since Karnataka has completed nearly all of its irrigation projects in the basin area. Irrigation experts feel Tamil Nadu farmers will have to change their cropping pattern.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment