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What is the Cauvery waters dispute: A timeline

By Vicky

A dispute that began in the 19th century is expected to witness a closure today. The Supreme Court is set to give its final verdict in the crucial Cauvery Waters dispute on Friday.

Cauvery water dispute verdict: Karnataka gets more water due to drinking water crisis in Bengaluru

What is the Cauvery waters dispute: A timeline

The genesis of this conflict rests in two agreements in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and Kingdom of Mysore. The 802 kilometres (498 mi) Kaveri river has 44,000 km2 basin area in Tamil Nadu and 32,000 km2 basin area in Karnataka.

The inflow from Karnataka is 425 TMC ft whereas that from Tamil Nadu is 252 TMCft.

Based on inflow Karnataka is demanding its due share of water from the river. It states that the pre-independence agreements are invalid and are skewed heavily in the favour of the Madras Presidency, and has demanded a renegotiated settlement based on "equitable sharing of the waters". Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, pleads that it has already developed almost 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of land and as a result has come to depend very heavily on the existing pattern of usage. Any change in this pattern, it says, will adversely affect the livelihood of millions of farmers in the state.

Decades of negotiations between the parties bore no fruit. The Government of India then constituted a tribunal in 1990 to look into the matter. After hearing arguments of all the parties involved for the next 16 years, the tribunal delivered its final verdict on 5 February 2007. In its verdict, the tribunal allocated 419 TMC of water annually to Tamil Nadu and 270 TMC to Karnataka; 30 TMC of Cauvery river water to Kerala and 7 TMC to Puducherry. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu being the major shareholders, Karnataka was ordered to release 192 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu in a normal year from June to May.

The dispute however, did not end there, as all four states decided to file review petitions seeking clarifications and possible renegotiation of the order.

Here is a timeline since 1990:

  • May 1990: Supreme Court directs Centre to constitute Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal.
  • June 2, 1990: Centre notifies Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).
  • January 1991: The CWDT rejects Tamil Nadu government's plea for interim relief. TN appeals the rejection in Court.
  • April 1991: Supreme Court directs the CWDT to entertain TN's petition for interim relief.
  • June 1991: The CWDT ordered Karnataka to release 205 tmcft. Karnataka government passes ordinance to nullify the award. SC strikes down ordinance and upholds interim award of CWDT. Karnataka does not comply.
  • December 11, 1991: The Interim award is published in the Government of India gazatte.
  • July 1993: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa goes on a sudden fast at the MGR memorial in Chennai demanding the Tamil Nadu's share of water.
  • August 1998: Centre constitutes Cauvery River Authority to ensure the implementation of the interim award of CWDT.
  • September 8, 2002: Cauvery River Authority chaired by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee directs Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs (0.8 tmcft) of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. TN decides to move SC.
  • September 18, 2002: Protests erupt in Karnataka. Farmer jumps into Kabini reservoir, dies.
  • October 12, 2003: Water experts from the Centre express their helplessness in coming to the rescue of Tamil Nadu in inter-State river disputes; say their hands are tied. They are of the view that the Centre has not been pro-active in ensuring effective functioning of the Cauvery River Authority.
  • July 17, 2005: Karnataka refuses to implement the distress sharing formula and rules out Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
  • Feb. 5, 2007: Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gives final award. Tribunal holds as valid the two agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the Governments of Madras and Mysore on the apportionment of water to Tamil Nadu.
  • Feb. 12, 2007: Karnataka protests tribunal final award. Observes State-wide bandh.
  • March 18, 2007: Jayalalithaa undertakes a token fast in Chennai demanding publication of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in the Official Gazette of the Centre.
  • May 19, 2012: Jayalalithaa seeks immediate Cauvery River Authority meet
  • Sept. 19, 2012: At the seventh CRA, Manmohan Singh directs Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu at Biligundlu Both the CMs -- Jayalalithaa and Jagadish Shettar term it "unacceptable".
  • Sept. 28, 2012: Supreme Court pulls up Karnataka government for not complying with PM's direction at the CRA.
  • Feb. 29, 2013: Centre notifies the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).
  • March 19, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court to give directions to Water Ministry for constitution of Cauvery Management Board.
  • May 10, 2013: Supreme Court directs Centre to set up panel to supervise Cauvery water release.
  • May 24, 2013: Centre notified temporary Cauvery Water (Implementation of the Order of 2007) Scheme, 2013.
  • May 28, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves Supreme Court, seeks Rs. 2,480-cr damages from Karnataka for not following orders of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal
  • June 1, 2013: Union Water Resources Secretary chairs the first meeting of the Supervisory Committee which saw Tamil Nadu demanding its share of water for June as stipulated in the award.
  • June 2, 2013: Water cannot be released as and when TN demands, says Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
  • June 6, 2013: Karnataka says it cannot release 134 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu between June and September.
  • June 12, 2013: Cauvery Supervisory Committee terms the Tamil Nadu's plea for directions to Karnataka for release of Cauvery waters as per the award of the CWDT as not "feasible".
  • June 14, 2013: Tamil Nadu decides to file contempt plea against Karnataka for its stand on the Cauvery Supervisory Committee.
  • June 26, 2013: Tamil Nadu moves SC for constitution of Cauvery Management Board.
  • June 28, 2013: Tamil Nadu files contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah.
  • July, 2014: The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal meets in New Delhi to hear applications filed by the Centre, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala seeking clarification on the final award it had passed on February 5, 2007, allocating the quantum of water for each State.
  • March 30, 2015: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah informs the Legislative Assembly that the State Government is committed to implementing the Mekedatu dam project proposed across the Cauvery river in Ramanagaram district.
  • September 6, 2015: Chief Minister Jayalalithaa writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the Cauvery issue and requests him to advise the Karnataka Government to release 27.557 TMC ft. of water that is due to Tamil Nadu (till the end of August).
  • November 18, 2015: Karnataka objects to Tamil Nadu's plea to release Cauvery water. The Karnataka government tells the Supreme Court that Tamil Nadu's demand for the release of 45.32 tmcft of Cauvery water proceeds from a wholly erroneous premise that the water year of 2015-16 in the Cauvery basin is a "normal year" and not a "distress year".
  • Karnataka says the flows into the Cauvery basin has been drastically less due to the failure of the south-west monsoon in Karnataka and Kerala this year.
  • September 2, 2016: Urging Karnataka to embrace the principle of "live and let live", the Supreme Court asks the State to consider taking steps to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu to help the State continue to "exist as an entity."
  • September 5, 2016: The Supreme Court directs the Karnataka government to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu for the next 10 days to ameliorate the plight of farmers.
  • September 7, 2016: Karnataka begins releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from as per the Supreme Court order.
  • September 12, 2016: One person dies and four are injured in police firing. Mobs attack businesses with Tamil names. Curfew is imposed in seven police station limits of Bengaluru.
  • September 19, 2016: A technical body, empowered by the Supreme Court, slashes by three-fourths the quantum of Cauvery water that Karnataka is required to release downstream between September 21 and September 30.
  • July 14, 2017: Supreme Court said it would take a balanced view, keeping in mind the interests of the people of both the States. Karnataka sought a reduction in the quantum of Cauvery water it should release to Tamil Nadu from 192 tmcft to 132 tmcft.

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