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  • Recently the Tamil Nadu government sought the Supreme Court’s intervention to make Karnataka immediately release 24,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) from its reservoirs and ensure the availability of the specified quantity of water at Biligundlu on the inter-­State border for the remainder of the month.


  • The Kaveri is an interstate basin that originates in Karnataka and passes through Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry before draining into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The total watershed of the Kaveri basin is 81,155 sq km, of which the river’s catchment area is about 34,273 sq km in Karnataka, 2,866 sq km in Kerala and the remaining 44,016 sq km in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.


  • The Cauvery basin covers a large expanse of land including major chunks in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also smaller areas in Kerala and Puducherry.
  • Initially, the dispute was between Karnataka and TN but later Kerala and Puducherry also entered the fray.
  • The issue dates back to 1892 when an agreement was filed between Madras Presidency and Mysore for arbitration but led to a fresh set of disputes.
  • Later, attempts were renewed to arbitrate between the two states under supervision of Government of India and second agreement was signed in 1924.


  • Historically, Tamil Nadu used about 602 TMC of the total yield of the river.
  • As a result, only about 138 TMC was available for Karnataka until the turn of the 20th century.
  • In 1924, Tamil Nadu built the Mettur dam, and the two states signed an agreement effective for 50 years.
  • The pact allowed Tamil Nadu to expand its agricultural area by 11 lakh acres from the existing 16 lakh acres.
  • Karnataka was authorised to increase its irrigation area from 3 lakh acres to 10 lakh acres.
  • In 1974, when the accord lapsed, Karnataka claimed that the agreement restricted its ability to develop farming activities along the Cauvery basin.
  • To make up lost ground, it started building reservoirs. This led to a dispute between the two states.

Constitutional Provisions related to Interstate water dispute:

  • Article 262 of the Constitution deals with the adjudication of water disputes. The provisions in this regard are:
  • Article 262 (1) Parliament may, by law, provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  • Article 262 (2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may, by law, provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause (1).


  • Decades of negotiations between the parties bore no fruit until the Government of India constituted a tribunal in 1990 to look into the matter.

  • After hearing arguments of all the parties involved for the next 16 years, the tribunal delivered its final verdict on 5 February 2007.
  • In its verdict, the tribunal allocated 419 TMC of water annually to Tamil Nadu and 282 TMC to Karnataka; 30 TMC of Cauvery river water to Kerala and 7 TMC to Puducherry.
  • Karnataka and Tamil Nadu being the major shareholders, Karnataka was ordered to release 192 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu in a normal year from June to May.


  • A monthly schedule is in place for Karnataka, the upper riparian State of the Cauvery basin, to release water to Tamil Nadu.
  • As per the schedule, Karnataka is to make available to Tamil Nadu at Biligundlu a total quantity of 177.25 TMC in a “normal” water year (June to May).
  • Of this quantity, 123.14 TMC is to be given during the period from June to September, also marking the season of the southwest monsoon.
  • Invariably, it is during this period that the Cauvery issue gets flared up, when the monsoon yields lower rainfall than anticipated.
  • After the SC gave its judgment in February 2018 on the CWDT’s 2007 award, the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) were established four months later to ensure the implementation of the judgment.
  • Since then, the two bodies have been holding meetings to take stock of the situation.


  • The CWDT (Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal) was established in 1990 which took 17 years to arrive at the final order (2007) on how Cauvery water should be shared between the 4 riparian states in normal rainfall conditions.

  • As per the SC, Karnataka would get 284.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft), Tamil Nadu 404.25 tmcft, Kerala 30 tmcft and Puducherry 7 tmcft.
  • It also directed the Centre to notify the Cauvery Management Scheme.
  • The central government notified the ‘Cauvery Water Management Scheme’ in June 2018, constituting the ‘Cauvery Water Management Authority’ and the ‘Cauvery Water Regulation Committee’ to give effect to the decision.


  • The CWMA, at its meeting on August 11, wanted Karnataka to manage its releases in such a way that 10,000 cusecs of water was realised at Biligundlu for the next 15 days, starting from August 12.
  • In other words, Karnataka would have to provide 0.86 TMC a day or 12.9 TMC totally in the 15 days.
  • The Authority also decided that based on future rainfall, there would be a re­-evaluation of the quantity to be released.
  • But, what apparently irked Tamil Nadu was the refusal of Karnataka during the meeting to abide by the quantity that was agreed upon at the meeting of the CWRC the previous day— which was a figure of 15,000 cusecs for 15 days.
  • However, Karnataka, during the Authority’s meeting, said it would release
  • only 8,000 cusecs, and that too up to August 22.


  • There is a need for states to shed the regional approach as the solution lies in cooperation and coordination, not in conflict.
  • The planning must be done at the basin level to make the solution sustainable and ecologically viable.



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