Asian News International (ANI) reported on Friday that farmers in the southern Indian state of Karnataka are protesting against an order to share water from the Cauvery River with the neighbouring State of Tamil Nadu. Protests have continued for over a week in both states. The city of Bangalore, home to many tech companies, has closed down schools and public places for a day-long protest.
The present protests followed a refusal by the Supreme Court on Thursday to interfere with the order of the Cauvery Water Management Authority to release 5000 cusecs (over 140,000 litres per second) of water to Tamil Nadu for 15 days. Farmers in both states have been distressed due to a shortfall of rain, among other reasons. The state of Karnataka claims that compliance with the order will unreasonably strain the draught-struck farmers of the state.
The dispute over the distribution of water from the Cauvery is perennial. The 500-mile river flows through the state of Karnataka, supplying water to Karnataka, into the lower agrarian state of Tamil Nadu, and finally to the Bay of Bengal. The Cauvery is a primary water source for farmlands in Karnataka, as well as the city of Bangalore. Several dams in Karnataka obstruct the flow of water to Tamil Nadu. The present dispute can be traced back to 1974 when the State of Karnataka declared a 1924 water-sharing treaty void. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was constituted in 1990 and constructed a scheme for distribution in accordance with the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. Karnataka was directed to release 205 million cubic feet of water monthly or weekly to Tamil Nadu. Violent protests ensued in Karnataka in 1991, forcing thousands of Tamil families to flee from Bangalore.
The Tribunal’s final decision was rendered in 2007 and modified by the Supreme Court of India in 2018. The Cauvery Water Management Authority and the Cauvery Water Management Committee were constituted in 2018 to give effect to the award of the Tribunal.
Violent protests over the issue also erupted in 2016 against a similar order by the Supreme Court, directing the release of water to Tamil Nadu. The Chief Minister of Karnataka stated that the state would file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the order.