The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to set up the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) within four weeks to ensure the implementation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's final order on the issue. The court has also directed the Centre to report to it compliance in this matter during the next date of hearing. The long-standing Cauvery dispute has spawned multiple bodies -- a tribunal, a river water authority, the management board and under it, a regulation committee, and so on, even as the matter has always ended up in court, and invariably -- with a spate of interim orders and special petitions -- led to acrimony. Can the CMB help Karnataka and Tamil Nadu put it all behind and ensure smooth sharing of waters?
Here's an explainer on the CMB, its structure and purpose:
What is the Cauvery Management Board?
The Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal mandated the establishment of
the Cauvery Management Board to ensure implementation of and
compliance with its 2007 final order on
the sharing of the river waters, mainly between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but also with Kerala and Puducherry. The board is a permanent body under the Union Ministry of Water Resources.
Who are on the Board?
The CMB is to consist of a full-time Chairman and two members to be appointed by the Centre. The Chairman's post must be held by an Irrigation Engineer of the rank of Chief Engineer, with not less than 20 years' experience in water resources management.
Of the two full-time Members, one has to be an Irrigation Engineer not below the rank of Chief Engineer, with field experience in the operation of reservoirs and management, maintenance and operation of large irrigation projects of not less than 15-years.
The second member must be an agriculture expert of repute, especially in Agronomy, with not less than 15 years' in the field.
The tenure of the chairman and the two members is to be for three years, extendable to five years.
Two representatives of the Central Government of the rank of Chief Engineer/Commissioner are to be nominated by the Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Agriculture respectively. They would be part-time Members of the Board.
A representative each of the state governments of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Pondicherry (now, Puducherry) are to be nominated by the respective governments as part-time members of the Board.
The state representatives should be Irrigation Engineers of the rank of Chief Engineer.
The Board will also have a Secretary, who is to be an Irrigation Engineeer not below the rank of a Director/Superintending Engineer, not belonging to any state party to the dispute.
What are the powers of the members?
As per the Cauvery Tribunal's stipulation, six members shall form quorum at the Board's meetings and the concurrence of the majority is necessary for the transaction of the business of the board. The members shall have equal powers.
The Board is to determine where its headquarters would be located after consultation with the states and with the approval of the Government of India.
The Chairman of the Board can invite representatives from the
Central Water Commission, National Institute of Hydrology, Indian
Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and/or any other agency,
including universities, as special invitees to attend the Board
or otherwise in carrying out the functions specified under this scheme.
How will the Board function?
The Board is to set up a well-designed communication network in the Cauvery basin for transmission of data and a computerised control room for data processing to determine the hydrological conditions, including distress, if any. This work may be entrusted by the Board to the Central Water Commission (CWC) or any other Central/State government organization.
The CWC is to establish additional gauging stations as required at feasible sites at/near the border of Kerala and Karnataka, where Kabini and its tributaries enter Karnataka so as to monitor inflows from Kerala. The Cauvery Management Board is to also set-up its machinery and devise methods to determine the quantum of unutilised water to be received from Kerala by Tamil Nadu through Kabini and its tributaries, and ensure delivery in Tamil Nadu at the common border.
The Regulatory Authority will also monitor flows from the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir as also from Kabini and other tributaries meeting the Cauvery below the KRS up to the Billigundulu site.
The Cauvery Management Board will monitor the situation with the help of the Cauvery Regulation Committee and the state authorities.
The area of focus will be the available storage position in the Cauvery basin, along with the trend of rainfall and will make an assessment about the likely inflows which may be available for distribution amongst the party states within the overall schedule of water deliveries.
In case of deficiency in water availability during any month as reported by the Board's regulation committee, the Board will consider reduction in the indent of the parties in proportion to the quantities allocated to each State by the Tribunal for the designated crops.
What data can the board seek?
The Board has to ensure that the states construct proper Hydraulic structures at all important anecut sites in the basin, with provision of appropriate regulation mechanism, besides regular monitoring of the withdrawals at such diversion structures on the part of the state. The Board may direct states to furnish data in respect of carry-over storage in reservoirs, including inflows and outflows, rainfall data, the area irrigated and water utilised.
The Board has to arrange collection of data for important rain gauge stations maintained by IMD/CWC/states in the Cauvery basin, as also inflow data measured at important nodal points on the Cauvery river system through the Cauvery Regulation Committee, which will suitably compile the rainfall data for different monsoon seasons along with the inflows measured at different sites.
What is the role of the board at the reservoirs?
The following important reservoirs in the basin: Banasurasagar in Kerala; Hemavathy, Harangi, Kabini and Krishnarajasagara in Karnataka, and Lower Bhavani, Amaravathy and Mettur in Tamil Nadu are to be operated in an integrated manner by the states concerned under the overall guidance of the Cauvery Management Board for each 10-day period throughout the year to meet the seasonal water requirements of the various states for irrigation, hydro-power generation, domestic and industrial uses, etc., and the remaining quantities of the surplus water conserved as far as possible and spillage of water reduced to the minimum.
What are the guidelines for the Board to follow?
As it is not possible for the Board to forecast the nature of the monsoon, the Board at the beginning of the water year i.e. first June each year, would determine the total residual storage in the specified reservoirs. Again, it is not possible to know the amount of season-wise river flows which will be available during a season; it will be assumed that the inflows will be according to 50% dependable year (yield 740 tmcft). The share of each state will be determined on the basis of the flows so assumed, together with the available carry over storage in the reservoirs.
The withdrawals will be allowed during the first time interval of 10 days of the season on the basis of the share worked out for each state, limited to the water requirements during the same period indicated by each state by placing an indent of water demand with the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee.
What formula will board follow in distress years?
The month of June would be crucial because the irrigation season starts from June 1, as also the normal date of the onset of the southwest monsoon in Kerala. As such, any delay in the onset of southwest monsoon would affect the inflows, and consequently schedule of releases from Krishnarajasagara and Kabini reservoirs. The Tribunal has advised the states and the Board to ensure that by the end of May each year, as much water be stored and conserved as possible.
However, if there are two consecutive bad years, it would cause distress, which will have to be appropriately tackled by the Cauvery Management Board by relaxing the schedule of deliveries and getting the reservoirs operated in an integrated manner through the states concerned to minimise any harsh effect of a bad monsoon year.
In view of such practical difficulties, the Board will have the liberty to alter monthly and/or 10-day schedules of releases, while making an effort to meet the seasonal allocations for the crop as far as possible, in consultation with the states.
What if states do not cooperate?
The Board or any Member or any representative will have the
power to enter upon any land or property upon which any hydraulic
structure or any work of gauging or measuring device has been or is
being constructed, operated or maintained by any agency in the
basin for the purpose of implementing the decision of the Tribunal, or to construct or make direction to construct additional gauging stations to the states concerned with the assistance of the Centre and the Central Water Commission for implementing the decision of the
If the Board finds that if any government -- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Puducherry -- does not co-operate, it can seek the help of the central government.
If any delay/shortfall is caused in release of water on account of default by any state, the Board will take appropriate action to make good the deficiency by subsequently deducting indented releases of that state.
Who will pay for the expenses?
The Board is empowered to frame its own rules for the conduct of its business. All expenses of the Board (including salary and other expenses of the Chairman and independent Members) are to be borne by the state governments of Kerala - 15%; Karnataka - 40%, Tamil Nadu - 40%; and Union Territory of Pondicherry - 5%.
The expenses pertaining to a Member representing a state are to be borne by that state. The cost of maintaining, operating and controlling of gauges and other hydrological systems for communicating the data are to be borne by the state concerned. The cost of construction and maintenance of the storages, power installations, diversion works, head-works and canal networks are to be borne wholly by the state in whose territory the works are located.