Cauvery river dispute verdict: SC does a balancing act, reads letter to BS

Unlike the judicial verdicts in the past, the latest Supreme Court verdict on Cauvery water sharing did not give rise to strong emotions and protests. It was clearly not displeasing to the parties to the long-drawn-out dispute. Tamil Nadu did not seem greatly perturbed at the reduction in the quantum of water allocated to it from 419 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) to 404.25 tmcft. It is being seen as a minor tweak and not as a significant deviation from Cauvery Dispute Tribunal award. It was satisfied with being allowed to extract groundwater from the river basin and appreciated that the Apex Court may have had to factor in the drinking water needs of Bengaluru. The Supreme Court’s observation that 4.75 tmcft was allocated to Bengaluru as it acquired “global status” was unwarranted as the status of a city cannot decide whether it gets potable water or not. Water is an absolute necessity for humans, no matter where they live. It was a cause of cheer for Tamil Nadu that the Apex Court ordered to set up the Cauvery Water Management Board within the next six weeks to oversee the apportionment of waters. On its part, Karnataka toned down the celebrations over the ‘favourable’ verdict out of consideration for the susceptibilities of Tamil Nadu.

With some give and take and small doses of altruism, we can reach amicable settlements in even the most intractable disputes. The SC verdict laid out equitable sharing of river water, collective national ownership of inter-state rivers and the priority of drinking water needs as paramount principles that would form the basis for settling inter-state river water disputes in future. A lot now hinges on how best we conserve and use water with its depletion currently occurring at a quicker pace than ever before and with the population increasing every year.

G David Milton, Maruthancode