Cauvery impasse: No breakthrough at meet convened by Centre

Last Updated 29 September 2016, 13:44 IST
A meeting convened by the Centre to iron out differences between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the impasse over Cauvery river water sharing failed to achieve any breakthrough today.

At the meeting convened by Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Tamil Nadu refused to accept Karnataka's proposal that an expert committee be sent to the river basin to assess water availability.

"There was a request from Karnataka government to our ministry to form an expert committee to take a view over availability of water in the Cauvery basin. The Karnataka Chief Minister (Siddaramaiah) pressed for it. Tamil Nadu could not give its consent to the proposal," Bharti told reporters after the meeting.

She said ultimately, solution could not be achieved outside the court. "Now things are again before the Honourable Supreme Court," Bharti, who chaired the meeting, said.

Besides Bharti and Siddaramaiah, Tamil Nadu PWD Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy, chief secretaries of the two states, Union Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar, and officials from Central Water Commission attended the nearly three-hour meeting.

Bharti said the Ministry noted views expressed by the two states during the meeting, convened after a Supreme Court order on Tuesday, and the same will be submitted before the apex court when it hears the matter tomorrow.

Referring to the tense situation in the two states, especially in Bengaluru, Mysore and Mandya-- the hotbed of Cauvery politics-- Bharti urged people to "take care of each other" and ensure peace.

"I may go on an indefinite hunger strike along the border between the two states, if the problem persists," Bharti said, making an emotional appeal.

Speaking to PTI after the meeting, Karnataka Chief Secretary Arvind Jadhav said his state insisted on a Central expert committee's visit to the basin area to study "ground realities, actual quantum of drinking water available and crop situation" before water was released as directed by SC.

"Before releasing water, we want a central team to come and visit the Cauvery basin and assess ground realities, look at the situation and the level of drinking water and crop situation. And whatever the central team says, we will abide by that," Jadhav said. He also said the Tamil Nadu government reiterated the long-standing demand for setting up a Cauvery Water Management Board.

"To this, our Chief Minister replied that there is a hearing scheduled before a court in this regard on October 11 and let the issues relating to formation of the board be decided then," Jadhav said.

Meanwhile, on Karnataka's demand for sending an expert team to the basin area, Shekhar stated there is no provision under law in this regard and that the SC order in the matter also does not speak about it.

At the meeting, Tamil Nadu accused upper riparian Karnataka of treating with "utter contempt" Supreme Court's orders on river water sharing and defying them "deliberately and systematically".

It alleged that Karnataka has not released the stipulated annual water quantum of 192 TMC ft, as ordered by Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in its final order in 2007, in any of the years, "except when the reservoirs in Karnataka could not hold the surplus flows".

In her written speech for the meeting, read out by state chief secretary Rama Mohana Rao, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa also voiced concern over "spate of arson and violence unleashed on Tamils living in Karnataka".

Jayalalithaa could not attend the meeting as she is unwell.
"The deliberate defiance goes against the spirit of the Constitution itself and amounts to contempt of the apex court. Karnataka has not followed the orders of the Hon'ble Supreme Court and has on the other hand permitted unruly elements," Palaniswamy quoted Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as stating in her written speech.

She termed as "orchestrated" the alleged targeting of Tamils in Karnataka following SC's interim order on September 5 which asked the upper riparian state to release 15,000 cusecs of water per day for 10 days to her state.

"Tamils had been persecuted and attacked with impunity by frenzied mobs with little or no effective restraint or action by the Karnataka authorities.

"In contrast, despite the dire provocation, Tamil Nadu government had taken every effort to ensure that law and order is maintained perfectly," she said.

In the context of Karnataka "continuously taking defiant stance", she wondered if the "meeting would serve intended purpose unless Karnataka can be prevailed upon to honour Supreme Court's directions."

Noting Tamil Nadu is in "dire need" of water, she urged the Centre to ensure Karnataka obeys the Supreme Court order and releases water as directed by the apex court besides clearing the backlog of 76.042 TMC ft as on September 26.

Jayalalithaa insisted that the Centre constitute the Cauvery Water Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court.

However, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said Tamil Nadu is in a "more comfortable" position than his state.

He said the ground reality is such that "no further releases from Karnataka can be directed without destroying the standing crops and causing shortages in the drinking water supplies".

"It would be more appropriate, if the Union government sends a team of experts to the Cauvery basin in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to verify the ground realities, storages, inflows and outflows for taking an informed decision," he said.

He said the sharing of water in a normal year is different from what it is in a distress year that too in the Cauvery basin. The state has declared 22 districts drought-affected in the 2016 kharif season.
(Published 29 September 2016, 11:34 IST)

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