The Weekend Leader - Link the rivers and save agriculture

Link the rivers and save agriculture


When Tamil Nadu approached the Supreme Court seeking justice as Karnataka refused to release Cauvery water in defiance of its order, all it got from a Bench comprising Justices DK Jain and Madan B Lokur was a homily on the importance of talks to arrive at an amicable solution to this sensitive issue.

“Why can’t both the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka sit together and give it a try? We want you to meet in a congenial manner and discuss the issue in the larger interests of the farmers of both the States,” the learned judges said.

Between 1968 and 1990, the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka held 26 rounds of talks but failed to reach an agreed formula to share the Cauvery waters. To break the deadlock, Tamil Nadu approached the Supreme Court in 1990 and on its order the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was constituted on 2 June, 1990. The tribunal issued an interim order on 25 June, 1991, which was flouted by Karnataka.

To make it fall in line, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) with the Prime Minister as its chairman was established on 11 August, 1998. The tribunal gave its final award on 5 February, 2007, which the UPA government is yet to gazette. The CRA, meanwhile, remained dysfunctional.

At the prompting of the Supreme Court Prime Minister Manmohan Singh eventually convened a meeting of the CRA on 19 September this year but failed to produce any lasting solution and the dispute was tossed back to the Supreme Court for a verdict.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister responded with alacrity to the Supreme Court’s November 26 homily and travelled to Bangalore on the 29th to have a ‘congenial’ discussion with her Karnataka counterpart, Jagadish Shettar, only to be told that he was not in a position to release “even a drop of water” to save the standing samba crop in the Cauvery delta region of Tamil Nadu.

Flouting order of the tribunal, CRA or the SC is tantamount to breakdown of constitutional government and the remedy lies in invoking Article 356. But that is not the demand of the Tamil Nadu.

The Union government should realise that the waters of the Cauvery are simply not adequate to meet the drinking and agriculture requirements of the four Cauvery riparian States. An immediate solution would be to link the river Netravati with the Hemavati, a tributary of the Cauvery, which would almost double the flows in the Cauvery.

This project could be implemented in just 12 months, according to experts. While Tamil Nadu farmers would receive their share of water, in Karnataka thousands of acres of land would turn fertile bringing prosperity to countless families.

The Netravati has its origins at Gangamoola in Chickmagalur district of Karnataka. It flows through the pilgrim town of Dharmastala and merges with the Umaradhara river at Uppininangadi before emptying into the Arabian Sea, south of Mangalore.

The UPA government is duty-bound to implement the order of the three-member Bench of the Supreme Court headed by former Chief Justice Kapadia, which gave its nod to the linking of rivers in India.

The linking of rivers would create a National Water Grid, which in turn would bring an estimated nine crore acres of land under cultivation with assured irrigation, and production of foodgrain in the country could be doubled.

Every one of the six lakh villages in the country could be provided piped drinking water. Only a decision by the government is holding up the project which is bound to bring prosperity to the downtrodden people of the country.

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