Cauvery dispute: Tamil Nadu farmers call to agitate just as Karnataka's are pacified

The protest is to start September 20, now that Karnataka has told the Supreme Court it may not be feasible to release more water from its reservoirs after 12 September

Representative image of a dam on the Cauvery river (photo: IANS)
Representative image of a dam on the Cauvery river (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

In a move to exert pressure on the Karnataka government to release the share of water they see as rightfully theirs, farmers' organisations and farmers of eight Tamil Nadu districts have called a protest beginning 20 September.

Karnataka authorities stopped the release of water on Friday, 8 September, after fortnight-long protests by various organisations against the release of the Cauvery river's water to Tamil Nadu from the Krishnaraja Sagar dam.

Mandya in Karnataka witnessed protests after the state government released water from the Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir. However, once the outflow into the river was stopped, agitators ended their protest in Mandya district.

A decision on the future course of action would be taken after the Supreme Court verdict on 21 September, said farmer leaders.

Tamil Nadu's agrarian community, meanwhile, is bent on getting the court's attention with their agitation the day before the hearing.

In Tamil Nadu, the protest will be organised in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Mayiladuthurai, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Tiruchi, Ariyalur and Pudukottai — the Cauvery delta districts of the state.

According to the farmers, the Kuruvai paddy crop in the Delta districts of Tamil Nadu has wilted. This has led to farmers being reluctant to start cultivation of Samba paddy for the next season.

On the directions of the Cauvery Water Management Authority, 6,000 to 7,000 cusecs of water was released into the river to reach Tamil Nadu, triggering protests across Mandya district in Karnataka by various organisations.

On Friday, 8 September, the water level in the reservoir behind the Krishnaraja Sagar dam was 98.06 ft in the morning, as against the maximum level of 124.80 ft.

The Karnataka government, in its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, explained that it may not be feasible to further release any water from the reservoirs in Karnataka after 12 September.

Tamil Nadu had gone to the apex court in August with the plea that it wanted Karnataka to release water from Cauvery. The Karnataka government stated that it wanted to release water to the neighbouring state after taking into account its own people's needs for drinking water and irrigation for crops in the Cauvery river basin.

However the deficit in rainfall in the Cauvery region this year has seen a contentious issue of long standing being brought to a head.

In Karnataka, there has been water shortage in several districts since June, leading the government to prepare for a drought. Between June and mid-August, Karnataka recorded 499.4 mm of rainfall, a deficit of 15 per cent, compared to the normal of 587.9 mm.

What is worrisome is that in August, the state recorded only 29.6 mm of rainfall, when the normal is 135 mm for the month, with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicting only isolated spells of rain in the state over the next two weeks.

Kodagu district, where the Cauvery river originates, has seen a deficit of 91 per cent rainfall this monsoon.

The Cauvery Water Management Authority stated that the Cauvery basin reservoirs in Karnataka were facing a 42.54 per cent shortfall in inflow owing to poor monsoon in the catchment areas. The water in all the dams on the river in Karnataka — Krishnaraja Sagar, Hemavathy, Harangi and Kabini — are all at low levels and well below capacity.

Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, has had a normal amount of rainfall this monsoon season. However, farmers in the region depend on the Cauvery water for irrigation, which is why the state sought the Supreme Court's directions asking Karnataka to release 24,000 cusecs from its reservoirs.

Tamil Nadu also wants the top court to ensure that Karnataka releases 36.76 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water as stipulated for the month of September, making good the shortfall of 28.849 tmcft from the period of 1 June to 31 July.

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