A high level technical panel appointed by the Supreme Court has submitted report. Report confirmed that the Cauvery basin is in trouble.
The committee, however, did not make any recommendations with regard to the quantum of water to be released to Tamil Nadu by Karnataka.
The report only gives an assessment of the ground situation without making any recommendation about the release of water to Tamil Nadu.
The committee — comprising Central Water Commission (CWC) Chairman G.S. Jha, CWC member S. Masood Hussain, and Krishna & Godavari Basin Organisation Chief Engineer R.K. Gupta — visited the Cauvery basin area of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on the October 4 direction of the apex court.
The three-member team headed by Jha was also accompanied by one representative each of the four riparian states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
The Supreme Court, by its October 4 order, asked Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day for 12 days from October 7 to 18, and asked the Cauvery Supervisory Committee to visit the Cauvery basin area of the two states for an assessment of the ground situation and report back to it by October 17.
The committee in report has suggested various measures that are in the direction of calling a truce between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on the Cauvery river water sharing dispute.
On 4 October, after the Centre took a U-turn on the Cauvery Management Board, much to the chagrin of the neighbouring southern states that want a permanent solution to the issue, the court appointed yet another ad-hoc expert technical committee.
The committee was asked to take a look at the ground realities in the basin and submit its report to the court. The report reiterates what the states have been arguing in court- that Tamil Nadu’s demand for more water and Karnataka’s constant refusal stating shortage in the Cauvery basin.
On levels of water- the states had disagreed on facts.
On this the report says:
-The inflow in the Karnataka reservoirs are 49.76 % of the normal flows as on 13.10.2016.
-The inflow in the Mettur reservoir is 34.29 % of the normal flows as on 13.10.2016.
-The measured flow at Biligundulu the point of measurement of releases/sharing of water to Tamil Nadu by Karnataka is 40.75 % of the normal flows ason 13.10.2016
-The shortfall in flows in Karnataka which forms the basis of sharing governs the quantum of sharing or releases to Tamil Nadu measured at Biligundulu.
The Cauvery dispute flares up during bad or abnormal water years, which also the report confirms. It has been seen from the data that this year is the consecutive low flow year.
During the last five years it has been witnessed that three years are low flow years. In such a situation, the uncertainty prevails and farmers of the basin States suffer in the process.
The committee has also interacted with farmers and it notes that in Karnataka- many farmer suicides are reported in Mandya district, due to heavy impact on economy of farmer, many villagers have left villages seeking labour in urban areas and that there is lack of water for livestock as almost all tanks in the command are dry.
In Tamil Nadu, it is not a stark contrast. According to the report, Kuruvai and Samba crops could not be cultivated and bank loans obtained for irrigation could not be repaid.
In the last 20 years farmers have been cultivating only two third area which is now dropped to one third area due to lack of water.
Significantly, the report makes sensible and obvious suggestions that the states should be looking at to help the situation. It says that The water application techniques are outdated and unscientific and the value of water is not realised.
The water applied to the field is on the concept of flooding from one field to another adjacent field and as such the water consumption is on the higher side and during period of distress this becomes very significant depending upon the soil condition.
The infrastructure to deliver water to the farmers is century old and has very low conveyance efficiency. This needs to be modernised for optimal use of scarce water.
Since the hearing is due tomorrow, the report will significantly influence the court’s view of things. Whether the state governments will be influenced and cooperate in the interest of the people is a different question. Perhaps, the court’s ruling based on this report could signal a fresh start to the 125 year dispute.