The Apex Court said that subject to the formulation of a scheme, the water allocation arrangement should stand unchanged for the next 15 years
New Delhi: In a landmark verdict that casts a long shadow on Southern politics, Tamil Nadu’s share of water from River Cauvery has been reduced by the Supreme Court (SC) and Karnataka will now receive a bigger share.
Citing the requirement of drinking water for Bengaluru, the SC yesterday lowered the amount of Cauvery water due to Tamil Nadu, to 404.25 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet), from the 419 tmcft allotted by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) in February 2007.
This means, Karnataka will now release 177.25 tmcft to TN instead of 192. The SC allotted Karnataka 270 tmcft Cauvery water, which is 14.75 tmcft more than the Tribunal award. There’s no change in the allotment for Puducherry (30 tmcft) and Kerala (7 tmcft). With these minor changes, the SC said, it is fully endorsing the method used by the Tribunal to give its final award in 2007. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra authored this unanimous verdict of the Three-Judge Bench.
The verdict came just months before Karnataka elections and has been claimed by the ruling Congress as a big win. Of course, Karnataka was overjoyed by the verdict, while political parties in Tamil Nadu expressed shock over the verdict.
A Special Bench of the CJI, which declared the Cauvery a “national asset” and largely upheld the water-sharing arrangements finalised by the CWDT in its award on Feb. 5, 2007, said Karnataka was entitled to a “marginal” relief. The judgment concluded that the CWDT did not take into account TN’s stock of an “empirical” 20 tmcft of groundwater. The SC held that it would take into account at least 10 tmcft of this groundwater and reduce this amount from the 192 tmcft supplied to Tamil Nadu.
The Court observed that Bengaluru had attained the “global status” and its drinking water requirement had increased multi-fold. Need for drinking water was at the top of hierarchy. The Tribunal did not consider the growing needs of Bengaluru and thought the city could make do with its 60 per cent groundwater supply. But groundwater had dried up with the burgeoning population. Thus, the Court allocated 4.75 tmcft to Bengaluru, even though the city is located outside Cauvery basin.
The court warned the States to not deviate from the judgment or use the allotted water for other than the designated purposes. It held that the Tribunal was right in basing its water-sharing award on the basis of equitable utilisation of river water. The Tribunal was correct in basing its decision on equitability and reasonableness, it said.
Verdict satisfactory says Madegowda
Cauvery Hitharakshana Samiti president G. Madegowda expressed satisfaction over the Supreme Court verdict on Cauvery river water sharing dispute. Speaking to reporters at Mandya, he added that meeting will be called soon to discuss next steps.
Gowda said that expansion of agricultural land acreage, usage of drinking water and other pertinent matters will be discussed during the meeting with various like-minded organisations fighting over Cauvery water issue.
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