An all-party meet was held in Bangalore today to discuss sharing of the river Cauvery's water. This was to put forth Karnataka's stand, ahead of the meeting on September 19, of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA), headed by the Prime Minister. The CRA monitors the sharing of the Cauvery waters between the two states.
On Monday, Karnataka had agreed before the Supreme Court to release 10,000 cusecs - a little under 1 TMC- of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu every day as a good will gesture. This until the Delhi meeting takes place. Tamil Nadu, through the Supreme Court petition, was demanding more. Karnataka had said 2 TMC cusecs of water a day was not possible. The state says it has water problems of its own after this year's monsoon had a poor start.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said they would protect the interest of Karnataka's farmers and would do reasonably.
Congress Leader Siddaramaiah wanted the government to take a tough stand on the water sharing issue between the two states. "Karnataka is facing a severe, acute drought. There is a drinking water problem everywhere. Such being the case we are not in a position to release water to Tamil Nadu. We requested the government, the chief minister, to make a vehement argument before the CRA that we are not in a position because of those reasons," he said.
The sharing of waters of the river Cauvery has been source of dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for a century now. Karnataka is where the river begins - and as an upper riparian state with reservoirs built on the Cauvery - it can theoretically control how much water is released to the lower riparian Tamil Nadu. In a good year, the monsoon is generous and there is no problem of water shortage. In a year where the monsoon fails to deliver - like this year - the tensions start to rise.
Ahead of that, Tamil Nadu approached the Supreme Court petitioning for a release of 2 TMC cusecs of water by Karnataka every day, saying its farmers were short of water for their crops.
As soon as Karnataka told the Supreme Court that it would release 10,000 cusecs a day, some farmers protests were seen in the Mandya district of Karnataka. This is a region that depends on irrigation from the KRS dam built on the Cauvery - and has witnessed violent demonstrations in the past over the water sharing issue. The protests on Monday were peaceful, but the authorities in both states need to be alert to prevent a repetition of any of the violence and friction of the past between the two states.