In Light Of Top Court Order, Centre Holds Meet With Cauvery Basin States

The chief secretaries of the three states and other senior officials of the ministry were present at the meeting.

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In Light Of Top Court Order, Centre Holds Meet With Cauvery Basin States

The meeting was chaired by Water Resources Ministry Secretary UP Singh.

New Delhi:  The Union water resources ministry today held a consultation meeting with top bureaucrats of the three Cauvery basin states, including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry to discuss the modalities of a scheme, to be implemented in the light of a recent Supreme Court order in connection with the dispute.

It was decided at the meeting that the member states would submit their recommendations vis-a-vis the structure of the scheme, functions of its members and responsibilities. The scheme has to be in place within six weeks from February 16, when the top court had pronounced its verdict, that is, by this month-end.

According to the ministry sources, the sentiment of the member states, which also included Kerala, was that the physical assets (dams and other structures on the river) would continue to be with the respective states, while the regulation, water release and supervision aspects would be dealt with by the scheme.

The meeting was chaired by Water Resources Ministry Secretary UP Singh. The chief secretaries of the three states and Puducherry and other senior officials of the ministry were also present at the meeting.

The Supreme Court had, on February 16, increased the 270 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu's share, while compensating the latter by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin, saying the issue of drinking water had to be placed on a "higher pedestal".

By virtue of the top court verdict, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry would be annually entitled to 404.25 tmcft, 284.75 tmcft, 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft of Cauvery water respectively out of a total of 740 tmcft.

The Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) award of February 5, 2007 (notified in the gazette on February 19, 2013) had allocated 419 tmcft , 270 tmcft, 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft of water annually to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry respectively.

The meeting was called for consultation we wanted to know the views of the four states. Since the scheme has to be formulated, what should be the exact shape, composition, roles and responsibilities of the body that will be set up under it, Singh told reporters after the meeting.

He said the states had already given their views orally on the issues concerned and that they might make written submissions if they wanted.

To a question on whether the composition of the scheme would be on the line of what the CWDT had recommended, Mr Singh said it was a matter of interpretation.

The tribunal had, in the 2007 award, recommended setting up a board with a chairman, who would be an officer of the chief engineer's rank (with 20 years of experience). The tribunal had said there would be two members (chief engineers with 15 years of experience each) - one from the agriculture department and the other from the water resources department - and a board secretary.

They would be full-time members, the tribunal had said and recommended two part-time engineers from the central government, of the rank of chief engineer, and a commissioner. The four states would also have representations through part-time members, it had recommended.

The Supreme Court has (in its order) not used the words Cauvery Management Board, it is basically saying a scheme'. It (the scheme) could be exactly what the tribunal had said, Singh said.

He added that the meeting also discussed if an official, senior than the rank of a chief engineer, should be appointed as the chairman of the scheme for its better implementation.

Mr Singh confirmed that all the four states would have representation in the scheme.

On the issue of allocation of functions with regard to the physical assets, regulation and release of water, a source in the ministry said, The sentiment among the members was that the dams will remain with the respective states, while regulation and release of water will be with the body (scheme) to be formed. 

Mr Singh cited two models of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and the Narmada Control Authority (NCA). The BBMB is engaged in regulation of water and power supply from the Bhakra Nangal and Beas projects to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pardesh, Delhi and Chandigarh. On the other hand, formed in December 1980, the NCA is a body with representatives from Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and the Centre.

These models are slightly different in the sense that in one case, the assets have been taken over by the BBMB. Whereas, under the NCA model, the assets continue to be with the state governments, but the regulation, release, supervision are concerned with the NCA, Singh said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Karnataka Chief Secretary Ratna Prabha said the unanimous decision taken at the meeting was that there should be a scheme .

According to sources in the Karnataka government, the state is expected to send its recommendations with regard to the scheme by Monday or Tuesday.
 

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