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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Cauvery water row explained: Why Tamil Nadu, Karnataka fight over river usage?

A Supreme Court order asking Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water every day for next 10 days to neighbouring Tamil Nadu has sparked off an agitation by farmers in Karnataka.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2016 18:20 IST

KV Lakshmana, Hindustan Times
Picture dated 15 September 2002 shows Cauvery river water being realesed from the Kabini Dam at Heggadadevankote province about 165 kms south-west of Bangalore.
Picture dated 15 September 2002 shows Cauvery river water being realesed from the Kabini Dam at Heggadadevankote province about 165 kms south-west of Bangalore.(AFP)

A Supreme Court order asking Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water every day for next 10 days to neighbouring Tamil Nadu has sparked off an agitation by farmers in Karnataka.

Cauvery Horata Samiti activists and farmers blocked roads in the Shrirangapattana taluk of Mandya on Tuesday to protest the SC directive. A bandh was called by the pro-Kannada outfit on Monday.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah called an all-party meeting to discuss the Cauvery river water issue and the apex court’s order on the matter.

Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing dispute:

Core of the issue

Karnataka claims that the British-era agreement was not correct as it did not get its due share of water. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu believes that it needs the water to sustain extensive farming that has increased because of Karnataka’s commitment to providing sufficient water.

Karnataka wants to triple its water share from the river, that originates from Kodagu and flows through Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, which means there Tamil Nadu’s portion will reduce.

History of the dispute

Historically, the dispute over sharing Cauvery waters dates back to the British era. The dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing Cauvery neared a solution when the two warring sides, Mysore princely state and Madras Presidency reached an agreement in 1924.

Mysore was permitted to build a dam at Kannambadi village to trap 44.8 thousand million cubic feet of water. The agreement was to be valid for 50 years and a review thereafter was part of the agreement.

Not willing to accept the agreement, the two states took the dispute to the Supreme Court after Independence on several occasions but the matter could not be resolved.

Arbitration attempts

Mysore, named Karnataka after independence, asked Tamil Nadu seeking permission to make changes to various clauses after 12 years of independence. But Tamil Nadu refused to do so, saying they can be addressed only when the agreement runs out in 1974.

In the 1970s, Cauvery Fact Finding Committee found that Tamil Nadu’s irrigated lands had grown from an area of 1,440,000 acres to 2,580,000 acres while Karnataka’s irrigated area stood at 680,000 acres, resulting in an increased demand of water for Tamil Nadu.

A study conducted by the central government in 1972 said the utilisation of water from Cauvery in Tamil Nadu was 489 one thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) against Karnataka’s 177 tmc ft.

Cauvery Water Tribunal

As both states refused to agree through talks, the Centre constituted the Cauvery Water Tribunal in 1990. After hearing both sides for years, the tribunal in its final award in 2007 gave 419 tmc ft for Tamil Nadu and 270 tmc ft for Karnataka. Kerala was awarded 30 tmc ft and Pondicherry 7 tmc ft.

Both governments challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.

Present agitation

The dispute escalates when monsoon fails, as there is lesser water to share. And this year, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have received less than normal rainfall during the monsoon. Karnataka says it cannot release water to TN for agriculture as it needs it for drinking water purposes.


  • Feb 5, 2007: After 16 years, Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal holds as valid the two agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the governments of Madras and Mysore on the apportionment of water to Tamil Nadu

    The final award makes an annual allocation of 419 tmcft to Tamil Nadu in the entire Cauvery basin, 270 tmcft to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry out of the total 740 TMC available in the Cauvery basin in a normal year.

    All states file clarificatory petitions in SC seeking greater clarity on tribunal award.

  • Sept 19, 2012: At the seventh meeting of the CRA, Manmohan Singh directs Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu at Biligundlu. Both the CMs — Jayalalithaa and Jagadish Shettar — term it "unacceptable". This is the first CRA meet since the UPA came to power at the Centre in 2004.

  • Sept 28, 2012: The Supreme Court slams the Karnataka government for not complying with the PM’s direction.

  • Feb 29, 2013: The Centre notifies the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT). The Central government was mandated to constitute the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) simultaneously with the gazette notification of the final award of the Tribunal dated February 19.

  • March 10, 2013: The Tamil Nadu chief minister says she will work for the formation of the Cauvery Water Board during a felicitation ceremony organised in Thanjavur for her efforts to get the final award notified in the Union gazette.

  • March 19, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves the Supreme Court to give directions to the water ministry for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.

  • May 28, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court, seeking Rs 2,480 crore in damages from Karnataka for not following the orders of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

  • June 1, 2013: The Union water resources secretary chairs the first meeting of the supervisory committee in which Tamil Nadu demanded its share of water for June as stipulated in the award.

  • June 2, 2013: Water cannot be released as and when TN demands, says Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah.

  • June 6, 2013: Karnataka says it cannot release 134 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu between June and September.

  • June 12, 2013: The Cauvery Supervisory Committee terms as not "feasible" Tamil Nadu’s plea for direction to Karnataka for release of Cauvery water.

  • June 14, 2013: Tamil Nadu decides to file contempt plea against Karnataka for its stand on the Cauvery Supervisory Committee.

  • June 15, 2013: Chief minister Jayalaithaa says the Tamil Nadu government will approach the Supreme Court for the formation of the Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulatory Authority.

  • June 26, 2013: Contending that the setting up of a supervisory committee had become a futile exercise, Tamil Nadu moves SC for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.

  • June 28, 2013: Tamil Nadu files contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah for his defiant stand against the Supervisory Committee

  • July 15, 2013: Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clash during the third meeting of the Cauvery Supervisory Committee over the latter’s share of the river water. While Tamil Nadu sought 34 tmcft in July and 50 tmcft in August to save the Samba crop, Karnataka says that it had already released 34 tmcft between June and July 13.

  • August 2016: Tamil Nadu asks the Supreme Court to direct Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu after Siddaramiah says there is no water in the reservoirs.

  • Sept 6, 2016: SC directs Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs a day till Sept 15. Protests break out in Karnataka

First Published: Sep 06, 2016 14:06 IST