Cauvery board likely to be on lines of Bhakra Beas model
The central government could base the “scheme” it has to come up with to distribute Cauvery waters on the Bhakra Beas Management Board, according to an official in the ministry of water resources.
It will take the form of an “authority with a mix of both administrators as well as technocrats”, said the official quoted above, as opposed to the recommendations by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal which had proposed a board run by technocrats.
The decision, according to the official, was taken a day after the Supreme Court granted the ministry of water resources the “flexibility” to formulate the scheme in “consonance with the law’’ (section 6A of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956).
“We have been granted flexibility by the court to formulate the scheme,” said the senior ministry of water resources official cited above who asked not to be named.
“We had asked for two clarifications — whether the ministry had flexibility to form the scheme for distribution of the waters, and whether the board was to be set up according to the tribunal’s recommendations or we could change its administrative composition,’’ the official added.
The distribution of Cauvery waters is a festering one between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
On February 16, the Supreme Court ruled on the case, based on appeals by the states to the 2007 order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal, which also recommended the board. The SC order reduced the quantity of water Karnataka was asked to supply to Tamil Nadu by 14.75 tmc and was largely seen as fair. However, Karnataka, where elections are due on May 12 and which suffered a severe drought in 2017, isn’t keen on it. Tamil Nadu wants the order to be implemented.
The court also ruled that the central government come up with a scheme to implement its order. Many, including Tamil Nadu took this to mean the creation of a board as recommended by the tribunal.
Karnataka is keen on a dispute redressal body, and Kerala wants the board to have both administrators as well as technocrats.
The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) was constituted under Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966 for the administration, maintenance and operation of works of Bhakra Nangal and Beas Projects.
The function of the board is to regulate the supply of Sutlej, Ravi, and . Beas water to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi as well as Chandigarh. The board also manages the distribution of power from Bhakra Nangal Beas Projects to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. BBMB has a nine-member board headed by a full time chairman and two full-time members, two representatives from the central government and four representatives from the states. The representatives can be either technocrats or bureaucrats.
The Cauvery board, as proposed by the tribunal, was to have only technocrats.
Meanwhile, the central government on Tuesday dismissed fears that Tamil Nadu might not get water for irrigation released due to the non-formation of the board.
Speaking in a press conference, Union water resources secretary UP Singh clarified that according to the recommendations of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal, water for irrigation can be released only between June and January every year, while for the rest of the year the river needs water to maintain the “environmental flow’’.
“I want to clarify that during these four months water is to be released only for environmental flow,” Singh told reporters.
He denied there was any urgency in release of water and said a supervisory committee is in place to look into issues and concerns regarding sharing of water.
The Supreme Court had on Monday pulled up the Centre for dragging its feet over implementing its order. The court ordered the centre to formulate the scheme and submit it by May 3 and asked the Cauvery basin states to maintain law and order.