The Supreme Court on Friday announced its verdict on the long-running dispute over the distribution of Cauvery river water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, saying that the Karnataka government must release 177.25 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu from its inter-state Biligundlu dam.
The court also mentioned that Karnataka will now have an enhanced share of 14.75 TMC water per year, while Tamil Nadu's share of water has gone down from what was allotted by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) in 2007.
Earlier, in accordance with the 2007 award of the tribunal, Karnataka had a share of 270 TMC of Cauvery water, which will now increase to 284.75 TMC.
The judgment was pronounced by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar, which had on 20 September last year reserved the verdict on the appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala against the 2007 award of the tribunal.
The 2007 tribunal had awarded 30 TMC water to Kerala and 7 TMC water to Puducherry, and these will remain unchanged.
The court said the increase in the share of Cauvery water for Karnataka is on account of the 10 TMC groundwater and 4.75 TMC drinking water that's required for Bengaluru residents.
Stating that drinking water has to be kept on the highest pedestal, the apex court said its order on Cauvery water allocation will continue for the next 15 years.
On 30 September, 2016, the Supreme Court had pulled up Karnataka for its repeated "defiance" in flouting its orders on the issue and said no one would know when the "wrath of the law" would fall on it. Later, however, Karnataka had moved a review petition in the apex court against its three orders on on the issue and direction to the Centre to create the Cauvery Water Management Board (CWMB).
Tamil Nadu too had earlier alleged that Kerala was drawing water in excess of what was allocated to it by the tribunal.
Big win for Siddaramaiah
Experts have said the verdict will be a big win for the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka. Karnataka's Congress government had repeatedly opposed the suggestions of the tribunal, saying Karnataka cannot give water to Tamil Nadu because the state didn't have any.
Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor with Karnataka University, has called the Supreme Court judgment positive. "It should be in favour of Congress, because Chief Minister Siddaramaiah refused to budge an inch following the earlier Supreme Court order in 2016. He took a risk in the Legislative Assembly, and said that even if it means contempt of court, he won't give water when people don't have it," he said.
"BJP has consistently flopped this time, in case of Mahadayi and Cauvery. Theirs was a judgemental and leadership error. Politically it’s their loss. If they think only Hindutva will pay them dividends, it is going to be tough. Since it is a pro-farmer verdict, JD(S) will tend to gain. And in the old Mysore region, it will be a close fight for Congress and JD(S)," Ramaswamy said.
On the other end of the spectrum would be E Palaniswamy, ironically on the first anniversary of being sworn in as Tamil Nadu chief minister. The court's verdict drew sharp reactions, with Opposition DMK calling for Palaniswamy's ouster.
"AIADMK is the culprit. They spoilt everything for their political gains. DMK took it in the right way but AIDMK did not work towards the case," said DMK leader TKS Elangovan, according to News18.
The AIADMK reacted strongly to the court's decision, with party leader V Maitreyan saying it was "grave injustice" being done to the people of the state. However, he hoped that the Karnataka government will honour the Supreme Court's order and release the required water to Tamil Nadu. He also said they will study the judgment in greater detail before deciding on their next course of action.
Tamil actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, meanwhile, has urged all parties to desist from politicising the issue, saying it affects everybody equally. "It's time Tamil Nadu and Karnataka stop fighting over the Cauvery issue. They need to behave like a family again. Political parties should also stop politicising the issue. Instead they should focus on what lies ahead. The Cauvery Water Management Board should be formed and we must all focus on the functioning of this board," he said.
He also urged farmers and citizens of Tamil Nadu to move beyond the heartbreak in the verdict and to focus more on how to conserve the water they have. "The court must have done its due dilligent work and probed the various factors at play. Farmers must now focus on conserving water and making the most of what has been allocated to us," he said.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2018 14:07 PM