x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Karnataka forced to send more water to farms

Indian state claims it needs the water rather than its neighbour due to poor monsoon rains.

NEW DELHI // Under orders from India's supreme court, the state of Karnataka continued yesterday its release of water from reservoirs on the Cauvery River to assist drought-stricken farms across the border in Tamil Nadu.

Farmers, politicians and activists in Karnataka have protested the release for weeks, saying that the state is also suffering from a serious lack of monsoon rains.

On Saturday, protesters held up trains and motorway traffic headed from Karnataka into Tamil Nadu, threatened to lay siege to the residence of Karnataka's chief minister, and burnt Tamil newspapers.

The release of the reservoir water begin late on Saturday night after the supreme court directed the state government to obey an order given by prime minister Manmohan Singh on September 19.

The Cauvery, which originates in Karnataka's north-west, flows south and east, crosses the border into Tamil Nadu, and empties itself into the Bay of Bengal.

The river's water is vital to agriculture in both states and has been the subject of dispute for more than a century.

A water-sharing formula announced in 2007 by a supreme court-constituted tribunal has been contested by Karnataka.

This year, after a diminished monsoon, Tamil Nadu demanded a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) - the first in nine years - to ask for more water to be released down the river.

At the meeting in New Delhi, Mr Singh, who is also chairman of the CRA, had ordered Karnataka to release 9,000 cubic feet of water per second (or cusecs) for 25 days into Tamil Nadu.

Jagadish Shettar, the chief minister of Karnataka, who said he was willing to release up to 5,000 cusecs, had walked out of that meeting in protest. On Friday, a two-judge bench of the supreme court berated the legal counsel representing Karnataka for not following Mr Singh's directive.

"It is really unfortunate that nobody is prepared to listen to the prime minister, who is the highest executive authority," the bench said.

"Have we reached that stage when you say to the prime minister, 'You pass an order, we will not comply with it'? We are sorry for the kind of respect you have for the prime minister."

Mr Shettar said in Bangalore yesterday that his government "will appeal to the supreme court for relief".

S Kalyanaraman, a former adviser to the federal government on river linkages, said both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were in "semi-drought situations".

"All over the country this year, there has been a failure of the monsoon," Mr Kalyanaraman said. "So the states aren't exaggerating when they say they need the water."

He said the farmers in Tamil Nadu have been in a quandary "because they haven't been sure whether to sow their crop or not, because the release of the water was doubtful". Karnataka's move, he added, came "just in time … If the farmers are now smart about it, they'll be able to sow their crop and use the water."


* With additional reporting by IANS

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