Cauvery verdict: SC cuts Tamil Nadu’s share, Karnataka to get additional 14.75 tmc of river water
The Supreme Court largely upheld the 2007 tribunal decision and said the Cauvery river water allocation arrangement will exist for 15 years. Karnataka will now have an enhanced share of 14.75 TMC ft water per year while Tamil Nadu will get 404.25 TMC ft.
The Supreme Court on Friday marginally increased Karnataka’s share of Cauvery water and ordered a reduction in the allocation for Tamil Nadu, settling a protracted dispute that has roiled southern India for more than two decades.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said Karnataka will be required to release 177.25 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water from its Billigundlu site to Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu. The earlier requirement, under a February 2007 award by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT), was 192 tmcft.
“Waters of an inter-state river passing through corridors of the riparian states constitute a national asset and no single state can claim exclusive ownership of its water,” the court held.
The top court largely upheld the 2007 tribunal decision and said the water allocation arrangement will exist for 15 years. The tribunal’s order is binding, it added.
The allocation for Kerala and Puducherry remained unchanged.
“In totality, we deem it appropriate to award to the state of Karnataka an additional 14.75 TMC of water, i.e., 10 TMC (on account of availability of ground water in Tamil Nadu) + 4.75 TMC (for drinking and domestic
purposes including such need for the whole city of Bengaluru),” the court said.
In February 2017, the CWDT had determined the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin at 740 tmcft. In a unanimous award, the tribunal allocated 419 tmcft of water for Tamil Nadu, 270 tmcft for Karnataka, 30 tmcft for Kerala and seven tmcft for Puducherry. It reserved 10 tmcft for environment protection and four tmcft for natural outlets into sea.
All states had challenged the tribunal award before the SC, which reserved its judgement four months ago. After Friday’s verdict, Karnataka’s share goes up to 284.75tmcft and Tamil Nadu’s will now be 404.25tmcft.
The 802-kilometre long river originates in Talacauvery in Kodagu district of Karnataka and flows mainly through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with its basin covering parts of Kerala and Puducherry. The water of the river was originally shared according to two British-era agreements, the last of which lapsed in 1974.
Since then, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have fought each other over the river in a dispute that turned increasingly bitter in the past decade, triggering widespread violence in 2016 when rains failed. Both states depend on the river for irrigation and drinking water, especially during summer and droughts.
Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah said he was happy as the state got “some relief” while Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswami said it was unfair to take into account the state’s groundwater levels.
In its verdict, the SC placed drinking water requirements on a higher pedestal and set aside the tribunal’s decision to “drastically reduce” Karnataka’s share of water, based on the argument that only a third of Bengaluru fell in the river basin and 50% of drinking water requirement would be met by groundwater. The court allocated 4.75 tmcft for Bengaluru’s drinking water requirements, keeping in mind the “global status” of the city.
The tribunal had not taken into account the availability of 20 tmcft of underground water in Tamil Nadu and had rejected it as a conjecture. But the SC took into account the use of 10 tmcft of this groundwater and deducted it from Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water.