ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Cauvery Water Dispute

Need for a Rethink

The long-standing Cauvery River water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka continues to be contentious and has recently led to violent outbursts in both states. The cumulative bitterness and misunderstandings between the people of the two states hide the common needs of farmers and the environment on both sides of the border. These are the issues that need to be urgently addressed even as mechanisms to take the discussion of water-sharing away from politics and politicians, such as the Cauvery Management Board, are put into place.

The events that occurred during the first half of September 2016, following the Supreme Court’s directive to Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu, were shocking. Forty luxury buses were burnt in one depot in Bengaluru, two people were killed in police firing and a young boy committed suicide by self-immolation in Tamil Nadu. The damage to property is reportedly valued at ₹25,000 crore.

This is not the first time such scenes were seen in Karnataka. Almost the same or even worse incidents occurred when the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal announced its interim award in 1991, allocating 205 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water to Tamil Nadu. At that time, 17 people were killed and crores of rupees worth of property belonging to the Tamil population in Karnataka was damaged. Lakhs of Tamils had to flee the state.

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