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Central body may oversee Cauvery water distribution

An official privy to the development said that the Centre has no “option” but to form an authority managed by the government.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2018 11:50 IST
Toufiq Rashid
AIADMK leaders raise slogans demanding the constitution of Cauvery Management Board during the budget session, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Friday.
AIADMK leaders raise slogans demanding the constitution of Cauvery Management Board during the budget session, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

Even as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka fight over formation of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB), the ministry of water resources has prepared a draft cabinet note suggesting the formation of a centrally managed authority to oversee release of water to states in Cauvery basin .

But the note, which is likely to be sent to the cabinet, has not insisted on the nomenclature of the Cauvery Management Board.

An official privy to the development said that the Centre has no “option” but to form an authority managed by the government.

The government had argued in Supreme Court that Section 6A of the 1956 Act, by employing the word “may”, has left room for discretion to the Central government for the purpose of framing a scheme. However, the SC in its judgment “repelled the submission’’, saying that the “framing of the scheme is exclusively meant for implementation of the award or as the same gets modified by this court”.

The official cited above said that the authority is likely to be headed by an “independent member”... who can be an IAS officer , a technocrat, and not necessarily a chief engineer as suggested by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

The authority is likely to have five full-time members, including the chairman and four other experts appointed by the Centre. The representatives of the four states are likely to be “part-time members”.

The CMB was to consist of a full-time chairman and two members to be appointed by the Centre. According to the tribunal, the chairman was to be an irrigation engineer of the rank of chief engineer with not less than 20 years of experience in water resources management. Of the two full-time members, one was to be an irrigation engineer not below the rank of chief engineer and another an agricultural expert. The CMB also included two part-time members nominated by the Centre besides representatives of the states .

The above official, however, refused to give a timeline for setting up of the authority, suggesting that the “implementation of the court order might not meet the March 29 deadline”.

“The court order has come in 2007 and is being implemented now. Nothing will change if we don’t form the board within the deadline set up by the Supreme Court,” said the official.

While Kerala has sought a review on the rejection of its stand of “seeking trans-basin diversion of the allocated 30 tmc ft of water for hydropower projects”, the Karnataka government, which is against the formation of the CMB, has decided not to file a review petition regarding the verdict. Karnataka feels the formation of the CMB will lead to the state losing control over its waters.

Instead of the CMB, Karnataka has sought the formation of Cauvery Decision Implementation Committee (CDIC). The state’s proposal says CDIC will have six members to be headed by the Union water resource ministry and another 11 members of a monitoring agency under it.

On February 16, the Supreme Court awarded Karnataka an additional 14.75 tmc ft of water on account of providing Bengaluru 4.75 tmc ft of water for drinking water. Karnataka’s allocation stands at 284.75 tmc ft.

Tamil Nadu, despite reduction in its water share, has insisted on formation of the board as the state is against Karnataka’s proposal of controlling the release of water. The sharing of the Cauvery water is a sensitive political issue in both states and Karnataka, which saw one of its worst droughts in 2017, goes to polls in the next few months.