Good in parts

Published : Jan 28, 2011 00:00 IST

Karnataka, though happy, is not entirely satisfied with the Krishna water tribunal award.

in Bangalore

WITH the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT-II) having given its decision on the sharing of the waters of the inter-State Krishna river, Karnataka, though happy but not entirely satisfied over the 800-odd page verdict, is still unsure of whether to approach the tribunal seeking clarifications, explanations and remedial action. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa told Frontline that the State was happy though it would have been more satisfying if another 70 to 80 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water had been allocated. What can we do? I will consult my seniors before deciding on what to do, he said.

Karnataka's Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister S. Suresh Kumar echoed the State's helplessness: Some solution has been found for a long-standing problem. It may not be an equitable solution since each State has its own grievances and opinions. We have been allocated around 100 tmcft less than what we had asked for. This is a great loss for the State. We are yet to discuss how to seek a remedy for this. We may be left with no option but to appeal against the decision. We have three months' time to file appeals and seek clarifications.

Voices from both the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have also been muted. While JD(S) leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda said he wanted more time to study the tribunal's order before reacting, former Congress Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council H.K. Patil opined that the tribunal had not been just to the State. The Chief Minister has made a mistake by welcoming the tribunal's decision when Karnataka has lost 100 tmcft of water, he said.

Former Irrigation Secretary Capt S. Raja Rao (retd) said the Yeddyurappa government would have to ask the technical and legal team that represented the State at the tribunal to come out with a technical paper on the basis of which the State could seek clarifications and explanations from the tribunal.

For Karnataka, though it has a network of seven river systems, the importance of the Krishna, whose basin covers two-thirds of the State, cannot be underestimated. Originating in the Western Ghats at 1,337 metres just north of Mahabaleshwar, the river flows for 1,400 km through Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh before falling into the Bay of Bengal at Hamasaladeevi, south of Vijayawada. The principal tributaries joining the Krishna are the Ghataprabha, the Malaprabha, the Bhima, the Tungabhadra and the Musi. The Krishna basin extends over an area of 2,58,948 square kilometres.

The Tribunal's verdict

Headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, and constituted by the Government of India in April 2004 under the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956, KWDT-II sought to clear up certain ambiguities that were left undecided by KWDT-I, or the Bachawat Tribunal as it is commonly known, which gave its initial report and decision on the sharing of the Krishna waters in December 1973. Some of the more contentious decisions before KWDT-II were the sharing of the river's surplus waters (which was touched upon by KWDT-I but not made a part of the final order) between the three riparian States, the height of Karnataka's Alamatti dam, and allocations to various basins.

KWDT-II used both the 65 per cent dependability factor and the average yields, setting them off against the 75 per cent dependability factor allocations that had been used during the first Krishna tribunal. It also decided not to tamper with the allocations made by KWDT-I. KWDT-II assessed afresh the yearly yields in the Krishna basin on the basis of data obtained after preparing a yearly water series for the period from 1961 to 2007-08, and calculated the allocations on the basis of the yearly yields at 65 per cent dependability. The tribunal assessed the total quantum of water in the Krishna, taking 65 per cent dependable flows at 2,293 tmcft. This assessment is 163 tmcft in excess of the 2,130 tmcft KWDT-I had calculated when it assessed flows in the river at 75 per cent dependability (along with regeneration flows). KWDT-II has allocated the distributable flow as follows: 43 tmcft to Maharashtra, 65 tmcft to Karnataka and 39 tmcft to Andhra Pradesh.

(The percentage of dependability is a relationship between the volume of water available for utilisation and the time (years) during which it shall be available. The higher the dependability, the lower the quantity of available water for use; the lower the dependability, the higher the quantity of available water. It is useful and required for the purpose of planning and water management. In this instance, out of 100 years it can be expected that 2,293 tmcft or more water will be available for utilisation in 65 years and in the remaining 35 it will be less than 2,293 tmcft.)

The tribunal, which announced its mandate on December 30, also assessed the surplus flows to be the difference between the average yearly yields in the basin (2,578 tmcft) and the 65 per cent dependability flows (2,293 tmcft), that is 285 tmcft. Of this, Maharashtra has been allocated 35 tmcft, Karnataka 105 tmcft and Andhra Pradesh 145 tmcft. In short, the second Krishna tribunal's allocations are 81 tmcft (including 3 tmcft of flows made available for minimum flows in the streams out of 65 per cent dependability) for Maharashtra, 170 tmcft (including 7 tmcft for minimum flows) to Karnataka and 190 tmcft (6 tmcft for minimum flows) to Andhra Pradesh.

The total allocations made by KWDT-II excludes the en bloc' allocations made in 1973 by the first KWDT, which assessed the quantum of water on the basis of 75 per cent dependable flows at the Vijayawada Weir to be 2,060 tmcft. Termed as Scheme A' of the Bachawat Award, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were allocated, along with regeneration flows, 585 tmcft, 734 tmcft and 811 tmcft respectively.

Further, the Bachawat Award gave Andhra Pradesh the liberty to use, in any water year, the remaining water that may be flowing in the river Krishna with the proviso that it shall not acquire any right whatsoever nor be deemed to have been allocated water in excess of 811 tmcft.

With KWDT-II deciding not to alter the allocations made by KWDT-I, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have now been allocated a total share of 666 tmcft, 911 tmcft and 1,001 tmcft of water respectively, with certain restrictions imposed on each State in keeping with the dependable flows of the rivers on which the allocations have been made.

KWDT-I had also drawn up a scheme, Scheme B', for the sharing of the surplus waters, in excess of 2,060 tmcft, as well as the deficits. Under Scheme B, Karnataka would be entitled to 50 per cent of the surplus waters over and above 2,060 tmcft, with the other two riparian States equally sharing the rest. Though KWDT-I felt that Scheme B provided for a fuller and better utilisation of the river's waters, it did not make Scheme B part of its decision since it was of the opinion that the ISRWD Act at that point of time did not provide for the constitution of an authority necessary to implement Scheme B. Scheme B was to be brought into operation only in case the three States agreed among themselves for the constitution of an inter-State administrative authority to be called the Krishna Valley Authority, or by legislation made by Parliament.

The Bachawat Award also opined that its order may be reviewed after May 31, 2000. Acknowledging the fact that a final decree cannot be rendered in water rights despite there being a quest for certainty in the law and the desire to establish rights in perpetuity, KWDT-II explains that changes in demand upon the water supply and technological improvements in control of water and pollution demand continued re-evaluation of legal rights.

Keeping this in mind, the tribunal found it prudent to make a provision directing that its order may be reviewed or revised at any time after May 31, 2050.

The second KWDT has also asked the Centre to set up at the earliest a five-member Krishna Board Water Decision-Implementation Board' with representation from all the three States. The decision and order of the tribunal comes into operation on the date of publication in the official gazette under Section 6 of the ISRWD Act.

The tribunal also directed the three States to contribute in equal measure to the Chennai city drinking water supply. Each State will release a total of 3.30 tmcft in equal quantities in July, August, September and October, and 1.70 tmcft in four equal instalments in January, February, March and April.

Karnataka's worries

For Karnataka, which ever since KWDT-I has always nursed the grievance that it was unfairly treated, the recent verdict is like a curate's egg: appearing to be beneficial in parts. While KWDT-II's decision overcoming strong objections from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to allow Karnataka to raise the storage level in the Alamatti dam to a full reservoir level (FRL) of 524.256 metres from the present level of FRL 519.60 metres has been welcomed, what has not gone down well is the tribunal's direction that Karnataka make regulated releases of 8 to 10 tmcft from the dam to Andhra Pradesh in June and July.

Explained Raja Rao, a former Engineer-in-Chief of the Upper Krishna Project, of which Alamatti is an important cog: The monsoon breaks first over Maharashtra and only when they release water will it flow into Alamatti. So they must also be asked to release some water. It will be difficult for Karnataka to take the entire burden. If the intention is to help the lower riparian State, then Maharashtra must share the burden.

Experts like him feel it is unfair to ask Karnataka to seek once again the required statutory clearances for raising the height of the Alamatti dam when the State had already obtained all clearances a decade ago and raised the dam level before being forced to scale it down because of objections from Andhra Pradesh.

Once Alamatti is raised, Karnataka will be able to store 130 tmcft of water, up from the present 123.081 tmcft. While this water will vastly increase the irrigation potential in the entire region, it will also require massive rehabilitation and resettlement efforts.

The modest allocation of surplus waters has also piqued the State. Karnataka had sought 278 tmcft of the surplus waters, wanted the waters to be appropriated using the 50 per cent dependability factor (as did Maharashtra) and was for the implementation of Scheme B of the Bachawat Award. All three were rejected, the tribunal reasoning that the State was entitled to only 177 tmcft, that 50 per cent dependability and Scheme B could not be implemented since there was no agreement among the States on the setting up of a Krishna Valley Authority.

This has not pleased Karnataka, which has consistently sought more waters from the surplus waters of the Krishna since the State's most drought-prone districts lie either in or on the periphery of the Krishna basin and will benefit from the irrigation potential that the river waters bring. Swathes of drought-prone areas in the north Karnataka districts of Bijapur, Gulbarga, Raichur, Koppal and Bellary, most of which were carved out of the erstwhile Bombay-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions and the Madras Presidency and handed to Karnataka during the reorganisation of States, have remained neglected and backward, one of the primary reasons for it being the non-availability of water.

The modest allocation of surplus waters is being seen in Karnataka as a travesty of justice that has occurred whenever its claims were concerned. Irrigation engineers and politicians in Karnataka never tire of saying that despite 43.7 per cent of the 2,58,948 sq km Krishna basin lying within Karnataka's borders (only 26.8 per cent of the basin lies in Maharashtra and 29.50 per cent in Andhra Pradesh), the State has not been given its adequate share of waters.

They also point out that the largest drainage area of the Krishna basin lies in Karnataka, and that the State has the largest cultivable area in the basin, the largest sown area, and the largest population.

Karnataka is partly to blame for its predicament. While it is felt that successive governments in Andhra Pradesh aggressively took up a number of irrigation projects in the Krishna basin, Karnataka chose to slumber for decades, ignoring its northern districts, citing lack of funds for not taking up projects. It was only during the mid-1990s that the State finally woke up to the fact that it might lose its share of unutilised waters. Thankfully, the tribunal has not appropriated the waters that the State was allocated by KWDT-I but remained unused.

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