Water War: Posturing spoils Cauvery talks

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Cauvery KRS Dam
Bangalore, Nov 30: Future wars would be fought over water. This a grim warning world leaders have been telling us. In Southern India, the Cauvery river has shed more blood than any other dispute in modern India.

The dispute has all the masala with politicians exploiting the issue with more lies than ground level truth. Even on Thursday, Nov 29 when the chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu met for 26th time after 14 years, there was a falsehood in the air and unnecessary drama in the act.

"If Karnataka does not release water, there will be a calamity for farmers of Tamil Nadu," TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa warned. Then immediately took a tone of a victim and said "despite all our discussions, despite all our pleadings, the Karnataka government was firm in saying that it could not release even a single drop of water. So this is the outcome of the meeting. Karnataka has flatly refused to release any water to Tamil Nadu."

Now over to Karnataka water resources minister Basavaraj Bommai. He said: "We never used the words 'single drop'.'' Normally soft-spoken Karnataka Chief minister Jagadish Shettar was even blunt: "Her claims are completely false.''

The Tamil Nadu CM wanted release of 30 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water in the next 15 days to "save the standing samba (long term) crops".

But Shettar refused. Why? Bommai has better answer or say rebuttal. According to him, almost 60 per cent of the crop is ready for harvesting as TN has used 13 tmcft water released by the Karnataka.

Jayalalitha, who has Bangalore connection, also had her missiles to fire at Shettar. When Shettar mentioned that Bangalore requires 20 tmcft of current availability of 33 tmcft Cauvery water, Jayalalithaa shot back "is Bangalore bigger than Chennai? We manage with 18 tmcft." She also checked with her chief secretary about Bangalore's population.

What has complicated the matter and may have forced posturing by the chief ministers is the ground reality.

Jayalalithaa said the situation in the Cauvery delta was grim and the present storage in the Stanley reservoir in Mettur was only 6.34 tmcft (apart from 5 tmcft of dead storage and another 5 tmcft required for drinking water), which would suffice for only six days. The standing 'samba' crop is under serious threat.

On the other hand the level at Kabini dam, which supplies water to Mysore and Bangalore, has hit rock bottom shifting the pressure on the KRS dam. The farming community requires water at least till December end.

The talks were also doomed to fail in such an atmosphere. While Jayalalithaa wanted urgent solutions as she outlined the grim water situation in the Cauvery delta, Karnataka felt there could be a fresh assessment of the situation after the north-east monsoon and suggested long-term plans.

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