polity : What is the Kaveri river issue all about?
I would like to hear an impartial background on the Kaveri issue and what are the possible solutions to the problem? or is the problem created only for political gains?
Answer by A Arun Prasath:
Origin and political involvement:
The debate over sharing Cauvery water predates to the late British era (1890s), wherein the Mysore princely state and the Chennai presidency (which was under the British Raj) had to come into terms with agreeing on a divide. The contention really arose when, in 1910, both states started devising plans for construction of dams. The British arbitrated the issue and defined the respective shares of water, and as to what area of farming lands are to be supported by these. A highly controversial agreement was arrived at, in 1924, and was designed to continue for the following 50 years.
In essence, it is not that the issue has been 'created' for political gains, although arguably, it can serve to provide political mileage in both the states, as a measure to 'win the favor' of the farmers in the states. In the case of this issue, typically each of the states act as one united entity to try and ease the situation for farmers in their own respective states.
From Karnataka's perspective, the ruling of the British was unfavorable to them. From Tamilnadu's perspective, their farmers had established extensive farms heavily relying on the pattern of supply of this water source. Despite repeated efforts from the Supreme Court to arbitrate the situation, the most complex situations have been around years with 'monsoon failures', when the pattern of sharing has at times, been undefined and often highly sensitive and contentious.
Facts on sharing:
In the 1970s, the Cauvery Fact Finding Committee dug up the core facts around sharing, as the historic 1924 agreement was coming to a close (scheduled to expire 50 years from back then). By this time, 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. This meant that, Tamilnadu needed the larger share of the water to continue, to be able to sustain its existing agricultural activity. Karnataka's stand on this matter however, is that this pattern came into existence because of the unfavorable British agreement in the first place.
The current situation:
Over the past 2 sensitive decades, the Supreme Court and the Cauvery River Authority (a highly powerful body that was established to reach consensus on this matter) have intervened on several occasions to have the states agree on the right splits. Highly dramatic situations have occurred at times, with suicides and ministers walking out of important meet-ups without helping reach resolution easily. In 2002, when monsoons failed, SC rulings have at times been explicitly disobeyed. Once, Karnataka gave in to the protests of its farmers and stopped the release of water as agreed. Tamilnadu saw protests at Neyveli seeking for cuts of power supply to Karnataka (NLC, being centrally owned did not disrupt power, but a minor incident occurred wherein a transmission tower was blasted by miscreants – @http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/nov/20tn1.htm). Tamilnadu vehicles were prevented entry into Karnataka. The situation looked out of hand all that year.
The next few years did not see such sensitive issues, with reasonable monsoons. However, the situation currently is beginning to build up tension again, owing to insufficient monsoons this year (2012). It is to be noted that, Kerala too is now involved in the controversies, given their share of Kauvery (with the tributary Kabini originating in their state).
In the absence of copious monsoons, it looks impossible that both states can be given 'sufficient' shares to keep farmers happy. How about 'fair' shares? This looks difficult too, given the 'history of the problem', the definition of 'fairness' itself depending on each state's perspectives on the matter. There is a lot of history and heartburns on both the sides.
The long-term solution definitely needs to involve significant alternate sources of water for farmers in both the states, a lot of rain-water harvesting in all villages, in addition to agreeing on a divide proportional to the farmer needs in both the states, leaving history behind. The last part is in the hands of the political powers.