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About The Cauvery Water Dispute


The Tamil Nadu government has approached the Supreme Court, urging immediate intervention to ensure Karnataka’s release of 24,000 cusecs of water from its reservoirs. Additionally, Tamil Nadu seeks the Court’s direction to ensure the release of 36.76 TMC, in accordance with the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s 2007 final award, which was modified by the Supreme Court in 2018. This move reflects Tamil Nadu’s efforts to secure adherence to water-sharing agreements within the Cauvery dispute framework.


GS-II: Polity and Governance (Intra-State Relations, Functions & responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and challenges of federal structure)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Cauvery River
  2. Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)
  3. Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC)

About the Cauvery River

  • The Cauvery River (Kaveri), designated as the ‘Dakshina Ganga’ or ‘the Ganga of the South’, flows in a southeasterly direction through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and descends the Eastern Ghats in a series of great falls.
  • Before emptying into the Bay of Bengal south of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu the river breaks into a large number of distributaries forming a wide delta called the “Garden of Southern India”
  • The Cauvery basin extends over states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Union Territory of Puducherry draining an area of 81 thousand
  • It is bounded by the Western Ghats on the west, by the Eastern Ghats on the east and the south, and by the ridges separating it from the Krishna basin and Pennar basin on the north.
  • The Nilgiris, an offshore of Western ghats, extend Eastwards to the Eastern ghats and divide the basin into two natural and political regions i.e., Karnataka plateau in the North and the Tamil Nadu plateau in the South.
  • Physiographically, the basin can be divided into three parts – the Westen Ghats, the Plateau of Mysore, and the Delta.
  • The delta area is the most fertile tract in the basin. The principal soil types found in the basin are black soils, red soils, laterites, alluvial soils, forest soils, and mixed soils. Red soils occupy large areas in the basin. Alluvial soils are found in the delta areas.
  • It is almost a perennial river with comparatively fewer fluctuations in flow and is very useful for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation because its upper catchment area receives rainfall during summer by the south-west monsoon and the lower catchment area during the winter season by the retreating north-east monsoon.
  • Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha, and Arkavati are the tributaries on the left bank (north) and Lakshmantirtha, Kabbani, Suvarnavati, Bhavani, Noyil, and Amaravati are the tributaries on the right bank (south).

Cauvery Water Dispute

  • The Cauvery water dispute pertains to a longstanding disagreement over the distribution of water from the Cauvery River among four entities: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Puducherry.
  • The conflict involves determining how the river’s water should be shared for various uses such as irrigation, drinking water, and industry.
  • The dispute’s origins trace back to 1892 during British rule between Madras Presidency and the Princely state of Mysore.
  • An agreement was reached between Mysore and Madras in 1924, valid for 50 years, which lapsed in 1974.
  • Since 1974, Karnataka began diverting water into new reservoirs without Tamil Nadu’s consent, leading to a dispute after India’s independence.
Formation of Tribunal and Final Award:
  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was established in June 1990 under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956.
  • The CWDT’s final award in February 2007 allocated water based on the availability of 740 TMC in a normal year:
    • Tamil Nadu: 419 TMC (demand was 512 TMC)
    • Karnataka: 270 TMC (demand was 465 TMC)
    • Kerala: 30 TMC
    • Puducherry: 7 TMC
    • Reserved 10 TMC for environmental needs and 4 TMC for inevitable sea outflow.
  • The award didn’t provide a detailed formula for water scarcity due to insufficient rains but mentioned proportional reduction of allocated shares.
Subsequent Developments:
  • In 2013, the Central Government notified the order on the Supreme Court’s direction.
  • Tamil Nadu approached the Supreme Court under Article 136 due to Karnataka’s non-compliance with the tribunal’s award.
  • The 2018 Supreme Court judgement declared the Cauvery a national asset and largely upheld the CWDT’s water-sharing arrangements.
  • Under this judgement, Karnataka was to receive 284.75 TMC, Tamil Nadu 404.25 TMC, Kerala 30 TMC, and Puducherry 7 TMC.
  • The Centre established the ‘Cauvery Water Management Authority’ (CWMA) and the ‘Cauvery Water Regulation Committee’ (CWRC) through the ‘Cauvery Water Management Scheme’ to implement the judgement’s decisions in June 2018.

Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA)

  • CWMA has been created as per the Cauvery Management Scheme framed by Centre and approved by Supreme Court.
  • The Cauvery Management Scheme deals with release of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
  • It will be implemented by Cauvery Management Authority (CMA).
  • CMA will be sole body to implement CWDT award as modified by Supreme Court.
  • The Central Government will have no say in implementing of the scheme except for issuing administrative advisories to it.
  • The authority will comprise a chairman, a secretary and eight members.
  • Out of the eight members, two will be full time, while two will be part time members from centre’s side. Rest four will be part time members from states.
  • The main mandate of the CMA will be to secure implementation and compliance of the Supreme Court’s order in relation to “storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters”.
  • CMA will also advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency.
  • It will do so by promoting use of micro-irrigation, change in cropping patterns, improved farm practices and development of command areas.
  • The CMA will also prepare an annual report covering its activities during the preceding year.

Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC)

  • The Central government constituted the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) as per the provisions in the Kaveri Management Scheme laid down by the Supreme Court.
  • While the CWMA is an umbrella body, the CWRC will monitor water management on a day-to-day basis, including the water level and inflow and outflow of reservoirs in all the basin states.

-Source: The Hindu

March 2024