Much Cauvery water has flowed under the bridge of politics since the 1970s when the dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka first entered the courts for a resolution. Seventeen years after the constitution of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, and after the body’s final verdict was delivered on Monday, politics continues to overwhelm the issue at stake.
Simply put, like all natural resources, the quantity of water from the river passing through the two states — as well as through Kerala and Puducherry — is limited and therefore require a balanced distribution according to demand and supply. If the dispute over Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka led to full-blown riots in 1991, Bangalore being the worst affected, both states need to specially eschew political one-upmanship this time round. The days of ‘easy water’ have been over for a long time now. Similar disputes have played out between Punjab and Haryana (over the Yamuna-Sutlej link) and between Goa and Karnataka (over the Mandel-Mandovi basin). One must be wary of missing the real point: responsible water management. Instead of picking a scrap over the amount of thousand million cubic feet of water that the tribunal has allotted to the ‘players’, the states should work together and forge a policy that maximises a fair distribution and minimises the use of Cauvery waters as a weapon of choice.
That political shenanigans lie at the heart of this dispute is borne out by the fact that Opposition leader J. Jayalalithaa — who, ironically, was born in Mysore, Karnataka, and plays her politics in Chennai, Tamil Nadu — has stated that the DMK government has “let down the people of Tamil Nadu” by accepting the tribunal’s verdict. Those who really require Cauvery’s precious waters know better than to use natural resources to play another tiresome and irresponsible version of off-season Holi.