Cauvery dispute, a pestering wound

I always use to wonder what would have been the reaction of Karnataka government to release water from KRS to the downstream Cauvery region if the territory now in Tamilnadu had been a part of Karnataka. Is the issue so complicated that it is being dragged for decades creating animosity among the people of Karnataka and Tamilnadu? Year after year this issue crops up with tempers flared on both sides causing disruption to normal course of people’s life with rasta roko, bundhs and damage to public property. The governments of Karnataka and Tamilnadu which spends crores of rupees to provide fees to legal luminaries to speak forcefully on the state’s behalf could have spent a fraction of that amount to hire experts for advice on how to manage water resources. Our country boasts of natural resources in abundance including regular rainfall. But we have mismanaged and exploiting nature for our insatiable greed. Our politicians also want several contentious issues to be kept alive so as to divert people’s attention from their misrule. In West-Asia, Israel, Jordon, Lebanon and Syria share water from a single river like river Jordon where the average annual rainfall is one-fourth that which the Cauvery delta receives. Also due to high temperature nearly eighty percent of water flowing in Jordon River gets evaporated. Is it not shameful that two states in our country have not been able to resolve this issue of sharing water which speaks of the caliber of our leadership?

The real cause of water shortage lies in our lack of vision and corruption prevailing in our system. During monsoons after a few heavy showers we hear about major rivers in spate. But after a few months we hear of depletion of water levels in our dams. This is mainly because of the excessive silt which has been accumulated in our reservoirs. This not only reduces storage capacity and cause evaporation but also backwater flooding during heavy rains. The reason for not paying attention to remove silt is due to the fact that it is a labour intensive and officials and politicians get pitiable returns from contractors in the form of bribes for approving silting work. Hence whether required or not new construction projects are undertaken wherein the estimated cost of the project is raised several times the actual cost and the money distributed among the contractors, officials and politicians.

Today technology could be made use of for judicious use of water through sprinkler and drip irrigation, use of genetically modified seeds which use less water, change in cropping pattern, rejuvenating old tanks, increasing ground water level by erecting check dams and taking up afforestation along river sides and measure to prevent evaporation of stored water. More than anything we have to take steps to prevent wastage of water, that too drinking water. In Bangalore nearly fifty percent of water is wasted in the form of leakage during distribution and people using drinking water for non-domestic purpose like washing their vehicles, for gardening and washing their courtyards. The city needs water treatment plants where treated water could be supplied for non-domestic purposes.

Our politicians don’t have the maturity or competence to solve this problem. At the most they may resign from their seats (and submit their resignation letters to their party president and not the Speaker) so as to gain sympathy of the people to win in the next election. It is only issues like these which help them stay in limelight. In fact when the late Devaraj Urs government decided to take up the construction of Varuna canal to provide water from KRS to irrigate lands in Mysore district, there was protest by the farmers of Mandya who felt that its construction would affect their irrigational interest. Among the politicians who supported the Mandya ryots was a highly qualified young politician who now is a senior minister in the Central government. It is high time the Supreme Court put an end to this dispute by constituting a committee of technocrats, agricultural scientists, environmental engineers and those having expertise in irrigation for recommending measures as to how water from the river Cauvery could be utilized for the benefit of both the states. Let the Court also constitute an authority for implementing the recommendation of the experts committee.

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