Amidst the persistent conflict between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) directive to release water, farmers, Kannada organizations, and political parties, including the BJP and JD(S) called for a two-day bandh in Bengaluru. This led to the closure of all schools and colleges in the city, significantly impacting daily life.
The CWMA’s order instructed Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for a period of 15 days. However, top leaders of Karnataka argue that there isn’t enough water to comply with this directive.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar convened a crucial meeting in New Delhi to discuss the Cauvery water-sharing dispute. In a bid to seek a resolution, Siddaramaiah called for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention, stating, “The prime minister has the authority to summon the two states and hear their arguments. Given this context, we have appealed for the Prime Minister’s intervention.”
During the bandh, schools, colleges, and private institutions in Bengaluru remained closed. Section 144 of the CrPC was enforced citywide by the Bengaluru city police, prohibiting gatherings of more than five people. Essential services such as hospitals, medical shops, nursing homes, emergency services, petrol pumps, water supply, electricity, and sanitation services continued operations.
The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited remained open and continued metro services throughout the city. Taxi services, including cabs and restaurants, were also available as they withdrew their support for the bandh. Bengaluru Airport issued an advisory, urging passengers to plan their journeys accordingly, as the bandh might lead to longer commute times.
The Root of the Dispute
Deputy CM DK Shivakumar, who oversees the water resources portfolio, emphasized that Karnataka possesses only one-third of the required water. CM Siddaramaiah cited two major reasons for not releasing water to Tamil Nadu: minimal rainfall after August and a depleted groundwater table.
Siddaramaiah explained, “Our rainfall ceases after August, whereas Tamil Nadu continues to receive rain after that. Their groundwater table is also higher, which worsens our situation.”
A Historic Dispute
The Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu traces its roots back to the British era. In 1924, a resolution was reached between the princely state of Mysore and the Madras presidency.
This agreement permitted Mysore to construct a dam in Kannambadi village to store 44.8 thousand million cubic feet of water, with the understanding that it would be valid for 50 years, followed by a review. However, after 1947, both states took the matter to the Supreme Court multiple times without resolution.
In 1990, the government constituted the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) to address the water-sharing dispute among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry. The CWDT issued an interim order to Karnataka, mandating the monthly or weekly release of 205 million cubic feet of water to Tamil Nadu.
Supreme Court’s Stance
The Supreme Court declined to intervene in the matter, stating that it is disinclined to entertain Tamil Nadu’s plea challenging CWMA’s decision. The Court noted that the CWMA and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) had meticulously considered critical factors such as drought and deficient rainfall when issuing the order.