If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row!

The Cauvery as viewed through a fish-eye lens at the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam, near Mysore, in September 2011. Photo: Karnataka Photo News

ROHIT BATNI RAO writes from Bangalore: Come summer and the two south Indian states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, inevitably start the year’s quota of dialogue on Cauvery river water sharing and people get soaked in political arguments about water related negotiations and political engineering or the lack of them.

This has become a pattern etched in stone, with the two States repeatedly being pushed into the arena by the sheer failure of political machinery on all three sides of the table—the two riparian states and the Centre.

This year the cry heard in some Karnataka voices is the need for a national (river) water sharing policy stemming from an apparent belief that such a ‘national policy’ could magically uncoil the tension among riparian states just because a third party, the Union government, proclaiming itself to be just and equal, when given the funnel, will help direct the waters to the riparian states in a fair manner.

That is pure fiction.

Regardless of the fairness in this deal between States and the Union, these are the things that need to be deeply pondered about:

# (River) water sharing between states is a characteristically local problem, limited to the interests of the riparian states and the people within them directly influenced by the river waters. A solution to this had rather not come from outside of the problem domain for those would not really address the problem!

# The farther removed a government is that is arbitrating river water sharing between states, the little it can do to benefit the riparian states, and the lesser jsut and equal its policies and decisions come across to some of them. ‘The reason why this is so often the case is that bureaucrats and technicians base themselves mainly on political considerations external to the region in question: the needs of the local population rarely feature at all’ (pp 161). Hence the Union government which is further removed than the governments of the riparian states is much poorly disposed to do justice to these states. (In fact it is better disposed to favor either of the states over the other!)

# The strong adverse impact such remotely-designed policies bear on the hydrology of various river basins in question. Historical tribunals of such remote origins and their verdicts on river water sharing in India have proven this point amply.

Keen on catching up on this debate?

Here’s a trivia (along with my interpretation) I thought we’d rather help ourselves with before we dive-in, hoping it’ll expose whatever sense exists in this argument (about the consequences of a national river water sharing policy).

1.) The preamble to the Indian Constitution offers justice (social, economic and political) and equality (of status and of opportunity) to the citizens of India.

Literally interpreting: Among other things. the citizens of this republic are secured social, economic and political justice. Likewise, the citizens have also been secured their equality of status and of opportunity in this sovereign democratic republic.

2.) Item 56 of the Seventh Schedule of our constitution places regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys under the Union List. This officially strips the riparian states of their (otherwise natural) political right to regulation and development of the rivers flowing through the respective states.

How can political justice be secured by stripping one of the rights to govern oneself, to develop oneself?

3) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu elect 12 and 18 members to the Rajya Sabha respectively and to the Lok Sabha they elect 28 and 39 members respectively. Hence on every vote in Delhi, there are 17 extra Tamil Nadu voices roaring to mute us!

How can Karnataka’s equality of status ever be secured by such unequal representation at the Centre?

How can equality of opportunity be secured by a denial of one’s right to engage in constructive negotiations with neighboring Union members targeted at deriving mutual gains?

How can any government, removed from this list of members, secure this equality any better?

4) Article 262 of the same Constitution conveniently assumes the Centre (Union government) to be the responsible body to arbitrate disputes related to inter-state river water sharing. But it has been found in several occasions that the agreements and tribunals arrived and awarded by the centre have only provoked the States to execute massive reservoir projects purely driven by hoarding intentions laden with greed and fear.

Such greed and fear are a synthesis of non-federal siphoning of responsibilities from the States to the Centre, which is not better disposed than the states themselves to decide on matters of such immense local nature.

One instance of Andhra Pradesh describing river waters flowing into the sea as wastage (pp 331) is a clear indication of how such tribunals have bred greed & fear to dangerous proportions at the state level. Not only has this led to hydrological degradation of various river basins, but also led to intra-state conflicts  (pp 14) not unseen till then.

5) The battle between state and central politics complicates the equation.

A national party allying with local parties of either riparian state is inclined to pamper its ally state (TN for example) with a better deal in its tribunal thereby starving its own victorious state (Kar for eg.) of precious water, which is later lured with other political mirages like ministries and such other sihi-tindi (confectionery)!!

Of special importance in this context is the wide gap in quality of local political representation in Karnataka and Taminadu, with Karnataka falling severely short of good local representation, which in turn severely handicaps its ability to negotiate deals in Delhi.

These items vividly elucidate the reasons why central overruling on inter-state river water sharing could be hazardous to the river basin itself, and hence to the riparian states in question. But it is seriously dependent upon public education and political acumen and will-power in the system if strong cries have to rise, demanding decentralization of power with respect to inter-state river water sharing. Like someone said, the next big war in this world will be fought over water.

Let’s not sow such seeds that can only speed up this war crop!

Also read: Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

29 Responses to “If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row!”

  1. the colonel Says:

    this does not address the problem at all.

    people matter, thats all

  2. asha Says:

    Tamilnadu politicians should stop this annual tamasha and apply their mind to harvest and store excess water released to them by Karnataka. How about building a few dams to store the water for summer months instead of breast beating. If only the Karnataka leaders had some spine and showed unity, this bluff of TN politicians could have been called long back. This is the same Jayalalitha who claimed there was no water for the summer crops and our son of the soil DG sent a bunch of police officers disguised as Ayyappa devotees and collected the crop samples from the Tanjore belt and displayed them in a press conference to shame her. Alas, if only JJ could learn from history.

  3. chidu22 Says:

    Going by the history of Kaveri water dispute, its clear that natural justice has been evaded by muscle and political clout of TN. The greedy state of TN has been like a errant child everytime, a la Pakistan in matters of sharing and coexistence. The center and supreme court have been siding with this militant state whenever the matter has come up infront of tribunal.With a state like TN, the only solution is settlement by war. Negotiations/talks are for civilized and matured people, not for narrow minded and the greedy.


    More than 2 Federal States in India, to me Tamil Nanu & Karnataka are just next door neighbours. No need to go through our Holy Constitution; None knows about, much less regards it.
    Like most eternal neighbouring interactions, here our attitude is: WHO GETS THE LARGER SHARE AND WHO’S THE CINDRELLA?
    A more enlightened next door chap would show (not show off, mind you!) how well he manages with fewer resources and would be keen to tutor the same if the other side is keen to at least listen, (let’s give LEARN a go by!). This is the prime age of Greed and not NEED. So it hardly matters who deserves more… and why?
    If at all we need anything more, it’s the WISDOM. As Sahir Ludhiyanvi said in ‘Allah Tero Naam’, BALWAANON KO, DE RE GYAAN… and then SAB KO SANMATI will follow automatically.

  5. Brahmanyan Says:

    Cauvery row is like annual monsoon. Politics thrive on differences. The present Government in centre is bogged with enough problems, unsolved for years. It has been proved time and again that they are incapable of solving any inter state dispute. The best solution is that the Chief ministers of the two States , assisted by real agriculturists should try to sort out the differences and arrive at a practical solution based at the availability of water in the cauvery during summer months.

  6. Doddi Buddi Says:

    A very good factual article. As long as coalitions continue at the Centre, TN will have an upper hand thanks to its MPs. IMHO Karnataka has done reasonably well by erecting a few dams that are capable of storing surplus waters without getting any money from Central government.

  7. Vinay Says:

    The center should not intervene – hell, no matter what the center says at the end of it, everyone will be dissatisfied, and we will have retards like Arivu moaning about “Stepmotherly treatment” and “Delhi Aryans”. And of course, his counterparts in TN will be all over themselves whining about the discrimination by Naarth Indians.

    At the end of the day, the only way to resolve such issues is to remove scarcity, which is the root of the issue. If one has a few hundred crore rupees, the theft of a few lakh will not make a difference to him.

    River interlinking is the most pressing need of the country. That is the only way scarcity will be put to rest. Once scarcity goes away, disputes will go away too.

  8. Gouri Satya Says:

    I remember a family freind of ours, a retired SE narrating his experience while in service in TN. Every year, when time arose to share the Cauvery waters, the two SEs of then Mysore and Madras States would convene an inter-State meeting at a TB in the Cauvery basin area. After discussions, they would end the meeting. Then, the two would sit and bargain and finalise the sharing of water on friendly terms, while enjoying their lunch. The SE of Mysore State was a Tamilian born in Mysore and the SE employed in Madras was a Kannadiga! “Then there was no politics; but, today…..”, he remarked sadly.

  9. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Vinay, River interlinking is the only way to put scarcity to rest?!
    How did you pull that out of your hat? Or some kind of poor joke?

  10. dr ramesh Says:

    River linking is one of the most illogical idea to come out of India. I think it can happen only in our country. Nda govt gave this idea lot of space and time to divert attention of people from corruption and governence issues. if tried , an ecological and human disaster is waiting to happen in India. Linking of major rivers is not like linking of wires on a circuit board, even fantasies have limits. Desalination, maintainence of small ponds and lakes, stopping encroachments of catchment areas etc if these conservative measures are promptly taken, India would be water surplus country.

  11. Vinay Says:

    Anonymous Guy:

    You tell me what’s wrong with river interlinking? I am not a technical expert on river interlinking, but there are enough experts who have spoken about this in detail – its all over the internet.

    You need to tell me why you feel river interlinking will not work, or is a “bad idea”.

    Dr. Ramesh:

    I have a feeling you are attacking anything that the NDA came up with or suggested, just due to hate for the BJP. Its ok if you hate the BJP, but you need to tell me why river interlinking seems so devilish to you.

  12. Doddi Buddi Says:

    I agree with Dr. Ramesh.

  13. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Unbelievably Dr. Ramesh wrote a very cogent reply as to why this is a nonsensical idea.

    some basic commonsense here: what would happen if you go ahead and link two or more rivers and you end up with a bigger problem? These problems could be less share of water to the upper riparian states and the lower riparian states get all the water or most of the water! Thinking along these lines it is best to not tamper with the rivers themselves but build dams and store/regulate water. IMHO NDA didn’t have a monopoly over idiocy but Dr. Ramesh types do make a useful point now and then.

  14. Vinay Says:

    Doddi Buddi:

    There are disadvantages, but in the balance, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

    I think the key is to ensure that there is no want of water in both states – the lower riparian and the upper riparian one. Leave alone the two-state model – if you look at the map holistically, the Deccan region is perenially starved of water. I’m talking about North Karnataka, Telangana, South Vidarbha – those regions where we have constant drought and water scarcity. On the other hand, look at the Northern plains of Bihar, UP and WB. They have floods on a yearly basis. Therein lies the benefit of interliking.

    Actually, the implementation is a series of tiny projects. Even though the overall project becomes massive when you take all of them together. Its basically a series of canals, water storage structures, and so on. River A, which is a perennial river, prone to flooding, flows its natural course – we don’t tamper with it. River B, which is a seasonal river, which dries up for 5 months of the year continues to flow its course too. The only thing we are doing here is to build a canal from A to B. And at a basic level, canals and water storage structures have a history of thousands of years.

    A lot of the opposition to river interlinking comes from the environmentalist NGO types – the Patkars and Roys. Most of their opposition by such groups is absolutely stupid, as usual.

    However, I think the biggest practical issue which will be a real hurdle in the way of the implementation of this project, is land acquisition. We have problems in land acquisition even for things like power plants and industries – it beats me how we will ever get it done. But then, if it gets done, I think it will be beneficial overall.

  15. Faldo Says:

    As Dr. Ramesh suggested, we can resort to better conservation and distribution of water from the existing rivers as they are, increasing or adding catchment areas. If needed we should be flexible in our approach to water sharing.This is what is being done the world over.

    Experts have given opinions both for and against river interlinking. In fact there are reports that the committees advising the Supreme Court on this topic, reversed their opinion. Some opine that while interlinking may address scarcity needs in regions which are out of the reach of major rivers, the effect it may have could be detrimental to regions that already are covered by the rivers.

    Moreover, most of our big rivers have water sharing treaties subject to international or inter-state agreements. There have already been concerns by our neighboring countries regarding linking of northern and eastern rivers. Even if this project were confined to peninsular India, which states or districts get to decide where the canals linking the rivers would flow from? Would we rewrite all existing sharing agreements?

    While we cannot dismiss the interlinking idea totally, this is a giant step requiring a lot of planning, logistics and a minimal agreement from all stakeholders. This is not something we can hope for in the foreseeable future. In the meantime we can aim for more realistic steps for conservation and equitable distribution of water.

  16. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Vinay, Then why dont you browse the internet before making wild claims:


    From the paper, dont seem to me like river interlinking is a cure-all for scarcity. Looks like it will be great for bureaucrat/politicians/contractors. Something you claim to hate and beat your chest about regularly on the forum.

    You need to think a little like Dr. Ramesh does.

    And since your mind-numbing cubicle job does not allow you to read a paper or exercise your brain, here is an extract which you may understand (i.e. no data/numbers, some conclusions based on the data):

    The river interlinking project therefore became a fait accompli. Accordingly, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced a task force for its execution. Such a mega-project, heavily promoted as providing water to the common man, has all the makings of a popular electoral issue attracting millions of people. Even in the absence of an open debate, water is a sensitive issue that leaves the opposition with no option but to espouse the project to prove that it was always supportive of the ruling party in matters of national interest. Congress President Sonia Gandhi wrote to the Congress Party’s Chief Ministers in various states in support of the project.
    The project serves the Promethean aspirations of bureaucrats and technocrats that form the rank and file of the government. According to a government spokesman, the project was given serious consideration even before formation of a government task force to study the viability of its implementation. However, it still cannot be denied that the project is unlikely to survive careful independent scientific study, despite the fact that the state controls the most powerful and persuasive system of evaluation for building public support for the project…

  17. Anonymous Guy Says:

    If this river-interlinking were an idea implemented in the West successfully, it would at least give us some confidence.

    Looks like this is a gargantuan piece of buffonry propagated by Indian politicians and other ‘experts’.

    What a joke.

  18. Vinay Says:

    Anonymous Guy:

    If I remember right, you were the one with the “mind-numbing job” of licking the white man’s ass clean.

    Google monkeys are available in the millions, and there are enough “links” that can be pulled out of one’s ass to favour either side of the argument. Anyway, I haven’t read that link yet, will read it later. But your “lick the white ass” attitude is exemplified by your comments – looking up to the “West”, and want it to be implemented by the White man first.

    The UID scheme was rejected in Britain due to several reasons – if it were left to the likes of you, one would never be able to move ahead – one would forever tail the white man’s ass, like a panting dog – but I guess that turns you on, so you would probably enjoy it. Elections with EVMs at the scale of India have never ever been implemented anywhere in the world, and we don’t seem to be doing too badly – but hey, anything the white man does not do first, is worthy of contempt by the Anonymous asshole of churumuri!!

    Discuss the project in terms of technicalities if you have to, but keep your sanctimonious attitude and white-asslicking behaviour to yourself.

  19. dr ramesh Says:

    Two days back, I read spectrum edition of Deccan herald, an interesting information shocked me. Karnataka has 30,000 small lakes and ponds, which if maintained well can irrigate 6 Lakh hectares of land. Why think of river link, if govt takes interest and improve the condition of these precious water systems built by great forefathers who were visionaries, prevent encroachment , karnataka can be irrigation surplus. RSS concept is single language, single culture— river interlinking is a part of this hidden agenda, cauvery, Krishna, kosi, Brahmaputra become one, millions of acres of forest land will be murdered. Lalu yadav’s idea of taking water along railway lines is far more practical.

  20. Vinay Says:

    Dr. Ramesh:

    Yeah, great forefathers were visionaries, the only hitch is that they were serving a population one hundredth the size of today, and with each person’s need a small fraction of today.

    And all this talk of “…if all these thousands of lakes and ponds are maintained well, they can irrigate x lakh hectares…” – yeah, sure. And if all the animal waste in Karnataka could be collected, we could power Malleswaram for free. If all the roads of Bangalore could be covered with a solar canopy, we can run Yeshwanthpur for free, to boot.

    Why are you linking “single language, culture” with river interlinking? What is wrong if Cauvery is linked to Krishna is linked to Brahmaputra, if it solves the problem and fulfills the need?

    I am actually interested in finding out the cons of river interlinking, and what the disadvantages might be. All I hear is “don’t tamper with mother nature” and the bleeding heart Medha Patkar NGO-types with their “environmental” stuff. Today, I’ve heard two new things here – RSS “hidden agenda” and “there will be corruption by the babus implementing it”. Yeah right, so let us just put a stop to any projects in this country because of the looting babus!

  21. dr ramesh Says:

    Mr.vinay, please think about lakhs of acres of land which will be submerged. Twenty years from now, land will be at a premium in India. Land mass both for residential and agriculture will be under stress. The very fact that the population to land ratio of India expunges the fantasy of river linking. Let alone India, do you know the massive adverse effects of linking cauvery and Kali river within karnataka. Fantasies should be restricted to video games and books of Rowling types. Interlinking of river is just an extension of. Vishal bharat concept of RSS which includes Pakistan,Bangladesh ,Nepal etc which is just an imagination. Inability to solve water disputes lead to this lame duck excuse of river linking. When will the bookings for apartments on the moon start? ———–When rivers in India get linked.

  22. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Heh Vinay – not one to deal with facts. Total B***s**tter. Wants to interlink rivers.

  23. Nastika Says:

    Few questions about ‘river-interlinking’:
    1) What is width of the ‘canal’ that connects Ganga & Kaveri?
    2) What is the plan get this canal over Deccan plateau mountain range?
    3) Plains of Ganga is at approximately 300 ft above sea level, while Kaveri plains are at 1000+ ft above sea level. How to get the water over this gradient at a beneficial cost?


  24. Vinay Says:

    Anonymous Guy:

    There is just one fact that you need to deal with – the fact that you are a born retard. Carry on with your clean-licking some random white asshole to sustain your sorry self. Oxygen thief.

    Dr. Ramesh:

    I am looking for actual adverse effects – you keep saying that it will have “massive adverse affects” – list them out please. And please don’t give me this “hidden RSS agenda” business.

    I hear your point on land – and like I said, land acquisition on such a vast scale seems to be the biggest hurdle to this project. Our population to land ratio is much better than most East Asian countries like S.Korea, Japan, Taiwan, etc. This ratio seems a huge problem to us, only because we compare everything with the West – with US and Europe.

    Somehow, I don’t get to hear anything about actual disadvantages or adverse effects, apart from statements that “this is going to cause massive harm, it has never been done before, it will destroy everything”.

  25. Vinay Says:

    Nastika makes a good point though – wonder how it will work out beneficially if we need to pump massive quantities up a gradient!

  26. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    We’ll end up going from a dispute between two states to a nationwide dispute if we do any sort of interlinking of rivers.

  27. Anonymous Guy Says:

    River interlinking was tried in Pakistan. They are nowhere near solving any shortage. The recent floods are a testimony to the foolishness of these babu-politician driven populist projects.


    What do you want Dr. Ramesh to do? Why dont you read the paper I linked instead of blabbering? Just do a google search instead of ranting. Or does emotion blind you like it does 90% of Indians on all matters?

  28. Nastika Says:

    @dr ramesh, RSS didn’t get the idea of river-linking. It was proposed by Kanuri Lakshmana Rao, who was a civil engineer & union minister in 1972.

    My opinion:
    1) Should rivers be linked?

    2) Why the rivers be linked?
    To store excess water in rainy season and prevent floods in Ganges delta (eg Bangladesh).

    3) How to go about this?
    Build a dam or multiple dams. Divert excess water during rainy season to these dams. Don’t divert any water during summer.

    4) Why not in summer?
    In summer, though not dry, there is hardly any excess water. In case there is excess water is summer, it can be diverted to these dams.

    5) How to get the water up the gradient & mountain ranges?
    Use solar-powered DC motors.


  29. asha Says:


    The Chinese are building huge dams and are in the process of diverting rivers that originate in tibet (most of the north indian rivers do) towards China. They can also play havoc with India just by turning off the water when we need it most and turn it on when we dont need it. A few years back there was a flash flood in brahmaputra which cause untold damage in India and was traced to the chinese mischief. So, in this sceanario how prudent is it to link the rivers?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: