Reality Check India

Forced to take a break !

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 14, 2007

Sorry for the break folks.

I dont have internet access at the moment. For you smart alecs, I am typing this post from a friends computer.

Quick views on a couple of news items:

The Cauvery dispute : Is this a water issue or a conflict resolution issue ?

The water to be released to TN has actually been scaled down from 205TMC in the interim award to 192TMC.  13TMC is a big big deal, it can irrigate 40K acres. So, why is the media not highliting this ?

There are major bureaucratic hurdles to be overcome before KA will release the due share. It is the responsibility of the TN government to apply pressure to ensure that these bureaucratic hurdles are overcome.

1) After the final award, each party has 3 months to file a review petition. Note, this is not an appeal, just a request to review the award. It looks like both TN and KA will file a review petition.

2) There is no timeframe after the review petitions are filed for the tribunal to announce its final and binding award. The timeframe could be several years ?

3) After the final award, there is a step called “gazette notification”, also called “gazetting”.  Only after the gazette notification, will the actual employees at the dam site open the sluice gates.  This notification has to be done by the central government led by the UPA. The KA government is now trying hard to stop the central government from notifying the award. The gazette notification is the critical step, it was after the notification that major riots broke out in Bangalore in Dec 1991.

Is the award fair ?

That is a separate issue. I have no idea because I do not have access nor the expertise to judge the arguments placed by the two governments. I believe the arguments placed by both states before the tribunal are not for public consumption. The important point is that if two parties agree to subject themselves to a conflict resolution mechanism – they must be willing to accept its conclusions.  One argument of KA seems to be that, “KA is forced to share the spoils of the SW monsoon (192TMC) but TN gets to keep all of NE monsoon”. Where can you start dissecting this argument  ? God has not created west flowing rivers from TN. KA must be free to build new projects to exploit its SW monsoon, but it cannot do these projects in such a way that it impacts the volume of flow into TN.

There is unfortunately a perception in TN that it has somehow gained by this final award. 13 TMC less is not a gain. At any rate, the government must push the UPA to gazette this order atleast.

There is more to this issue that I will write some time in the future. The issue dates back to the  construction of a remarkable dam called Grand Anaicut by the king Karikala Cholan 2000 years back that paved the way for massive development of agriculture in the Cauvery Delta. This forms the basis for the historic claims of the delta farmers.

The true test of the TN government is whether is can protect the rights of these farmers in the face of a immature media and brinkmanship by Karnataka politicians.


23 Responses

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  1. Reason said, on February 14, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    I read the argument about two monsoons in deccan herald, and that was in the context of distress sharing. Taken out of that context, this argument does look silly. Context is everything 🙂

    If the tribunal had published a summary of arguments made by the two states, the tribunal’s opinion on those arguments, and its rationale behind each decision, that would have helped. Why are those arguments not for public consumption?

  2. Dev said, on February 15, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Let me put forth the facts on the 13 TMC less than interinm award point you are making

    As per the interim award the 205 TMC of water that is to be released was measured at Mettur wheras the fina award of 192 TMC is measured at be bedagondi (not sure if I got the name right ) which is in Karnataka. The distance between this and mettur is a good 60 odd kms. The catchment in this stretch adds 25 TMC. So effectively TN gets 192+25 = 217 TMC at mettur which is 12 TMC more than the interim award

    Also till kerala builds dams to utilise its share of 30 TMC, Karnataka is expected to store and release 30 TMC to Tamil nadu. Karnataka is also expected to release 10 TMC for environmental purpose ( to protect cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu )

    The total tally is 217(at mettur ) + 30 ( Kerala share ) + 10 ( environmental purpose ) = 257 TMC which Karnataka has to release

    Now draw your own inference on who gained from the verdict

  3. realitycheck said, on February 15, 2007 at 3:31 pm


    You mean Biligundlu (near Hogenekkal)?

    I read about your line of reasoning in the Deccan Herald also. Clearly, there are a lot of things in the report that we dont know yet (it is 1000 pages).

    The interim order *assures* 205 TMC at Mettur measurement point. This means that KA has to ensure that the mettur point gets 205 TMC, the appropriate discharge has to happen from Kabini / Hemavathi/ KRS etc to make it happen.

    The catch is that the 60KM or so is in Dharmapuri/Salem districts – not exactly well known for rains. The 25 TMC you quote is probably at a low dependebility (again I dont know the numbers, but I know the area).

    Under the interim order TN is insulated from drought in these two districts. If 0 TMC is realized in the 60 KMs or so, then KA must meet the entire 205TMC assurance at mettur. If the full 25 TMC is met in the 60KM, then KA need only release 180 TMC. The bottomline is under the earlier award, KA is exposed to 205TMC release. Due to the drought prone areas of the 60KM, I am willing to guess that in most years it is going to be near 200-205TMC.

    Under the new order, KA only needs to release 192 TMC at Biligundlu (Hogennekal) border point. If the 60KM or so has a good year then TN gets to enjoy, if not KA does not have to assure anything at Mettur.

    The 10TMC for “keeping in the river” and other points you raised are not new to the final award.

    What is really lacking (or is missing in media reports) is this :
    1) Plan for drought years
    2) Requirements for TN to store excess water in good years to enable KA to cut back if it has a bad year
    3) Requirements on TN to revive its other river systems which are being recklessly raped by the sand mafia. As a result, almost all water runs off the surface with hardly any recharge of groundwater resources.
    4) Requirements for TN to enhance forest cover and other environmental action. This is a sore point with KA, they maintain all their forests – this leads to good rains. TN does not take up any forestry schemes (eg in the Dharmapuri / Satiamangala ranges).

    The final order must have taken a more holistic approach to the vexing problem.

    Thanks for your views.

  4. Jai_Choorakkot said, on February 16, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I found the Grand Anicut reference interesting. Is the Cauvery water booked out on a first-come first-served basis?

    What if some XYZ Chalukya had in the past built a bigger dam in Karnataka territory and blocked off 90% of the water leading to great prosperity in his ancient kingdom. Do downriver Tamils lose their rights today to the historical precedent set.


  5. realitycheck said, on February 16, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I am glad you are asking these questions.

    >> What if some XYZ Chalukya had in the past built – – Do downriver Tamils lose their rights today to the historical precedent set >>


    The delta farmers would have no historical claim over usage. They may still have a legitimate claim based on just use, but certainly no historical claim.

    In a way, we are all prisoners of history. Imagine if some ancient Chalukya king had blocked the Cauvery. This would have led to a variety of possibilities.

    1) More acreage brought under cultivation in KA and less under TN.

    2) One crop instead of two in the delta region. Perhaps less paddy and more pulses.

    3) On the flip side, the Chalukya kingdom would have been an envious target for conquest by other kingdoms including the Cholas.

    We cant predict how things would have worked out if history had played out differently than it did.

    What matters is at present, farming in the delta regiion is mainly paddy and is two crops, the acreage under cultivation is huge. Certainly the Grand Anicut played a key role in why this came to be. This however does not take away the rights of the KA farmers in any way.

    Historical claims were never used to deny KA from building dams at Hemavathi / Kabini / Kannambadi / Harangi (most of them recent). KA has every right to exploit its natural resources and the SW monsoon.

    The only point is that these steps must be taken up in such a way that does not jeopardize the flow of water into TN.

  6. Prashanth said, on February 16, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Problem is that we dont have a National Water Policy. A National Policy will mean that Historical Claims arent taken into account and a comprehensive formula for water sharing btw states is drawn up. Going by Historical Claims, there is no need for Punjab and Harayana to release water to Rajasthan since it wasnt dependent upon their water anyway.

    In my opinion, asking one state {Karnataka} to have One crop and let another {TN} to have 3 Crops is as biased as it can get.

  7. realitycheck said, on February 16, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    There are only two crops Samba and Kuruvai (the summer crop). There is no question of 3 crops.

    HIstorical claim is only one factor, it is not everything. Todays needs and just / optimum usage must also be taken into account. If you go by historical claims *alone* Rajasthan does not have a historical claim over Sutlej or Beas waters. However, it has a just and optimum usage claim. This is a more modern claim and must also be taken into account.

    The fact is – due to historical and geographical reasons TN has 28 lakh acres under paddy vs KA 8 acres. It has been this ratio or worse for 2000 years. The two crops are not a new phenomenon either.

    How would a national water policy help ? I doubt it.

    The current award must be written in such a way to force TN to build surplus storage reservoirs to enable KA to cut back in drought years. TN must also be help accountable for rampant sand mining that increases runoff. KA discharge must also be linked to a 2 year window instead of just the current year. For example : If KA released 250 TMC in a good year, and the subsequent year had a drought – then it must be able to adjust appropriately (not necessarily in absolute terms). Some imagination is required to help farmers on both sides.

    Do you think grandstanding like Ambarishs’ is going to help ?

  8. Prashanth said, on February 17, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    …The fact is – due to historical and geographical reasons TN has 28 lakh acres under paddy vs KA 8 acres. It has been this ratio or worse for 2000 years….

    Well, just around 200 years ago ratio was around 1: 1.5 in favour of TN. Reason for TN having a higher usage is due to the fact that while Cauvery flows in Karnataka, it really seeps in TN creating a real excellent delta area for growing {Just like Bhrahmaputra flows in most states of India while really seeping into the ground in Bangaldesh}.

    ….force TN to build surplus storage reservoirs to enable KA to cut back in drought years….

    Well, if they get excess water, why would they think of Investing in creating storage capacities. When the KRS Dam construction was planned and was being opposed by TN, Sir M. Visvesvaraya had suggested that TN buid a dam below the currect Mettur {around 100 kms I think} where Cauvery flows btw two hills. But it was never implemented.

    …Do you think grandstanding like Ambarishs’ is going to help ?….

    Well, I dont really know if his resignation is going to help or not, but being a junior minister in a Cabinet dominated by ministers from TN, there was no way he could have raised his voice in the Cabinet.

  9. Jai_Choorakkot said, on February 19, 2007 at 6:07 am

    The Anicut and history:
    This tack continues to be a disappointment, especially coming from you.

    1. It can be argued that KA farmers are victims of historical oppression since this powerful Chola king would have invaded had they built a dam, to protect his water inflow. Thus what was established by might centuries ago was not a ‘fair deal’ and you are presenting that as precedent.

    2. This above is akin to arguing that all the powerful classes should get away with any past oppression committed (SC / ST whatever) and there is no redressal needed since it was established historical fact. This is a stretch but I hope you see the parallel.

    3. …. The only point is that these steps must be taken up in such a way that does not jeopardize the flow of water into TN. ….

    Given that we are talking about a finite and possibly decreasing (definitely not increasing) number here, this is the wording where you appear to seek to trap todays discourse to the situation on the ground realized in Karikala Chola’s time.

    Looks like that is a non-negotiable number and whether that number provides a fair share for KA farmers is secondary to the argument.

    4. Aside from this ‘prisoners of history’ bit your post has been very informative and the distress sharing you are talking about is welcome.


  10. Jai_Choorakkot said, on February 19, 2007 at 6:18 am

    clarification on 2:
    Why didnt the Kannada kings build their dam. They could have, that they didnt is not our fault.

    Why didnt repressed classes (numerically far superior) revolt and destroy the caste system a millenium ago. They could have, that they didnt is not our fault.

    clarification on 3:
    The finite and decreasing number that I was talking about is the total water quantum in the Cauvery.


  11. Revathi said, on February 19, 2007 at 8:19 am

    The whole discussion would have been more fruitful if we had seen the problem holistically. It is but common sense to respect the forces of nature- in the upper reaches of the river dams serve to generate electricity, prevent flooding in the lowlands and store water (not to mention big revenues from tourism). Massive cultivation generally takes place in the delta region.
    Also, the upper part of the river stores up all the water at its own peril. Not only is there more silting, there is an entire ecosystem that is at danger by not allowing a minimum quantity of water to flow into the delta. Petty interstate politics are ignoring larger environmental issues- I dont know whether there was any consideration about “what was good for the river”.
    In today’s context it is easily seen that Karnataka has cleaner albeit lesser water when compared to tamil nadu that has such polluted rivers that a lot of this water cannot be used even for irrigation let alone for drinking. It is ofcourse another issue that Tamil nadu has never had a great record in environmental pollution control and has allowed most of its water bodies to become sewers.

  12. Jai_Choorakkot said, on February 19, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Responding to your historical thread has me sounding more extreme than my stance on this issue, I actually want a solution that is fair to both sides and can be implemented. There is a lot of rhetoric in the public / political sphere on this issue. Both states may have blindly increased usage of water as if they have a blank cheque and not taken enough steps on the conservation front.

    But coming back to …
    “The only point is that these steps must be taken up in such a way that does not jeopardize the flow of water into TN”

    This sounds like a fixed number to be assured to TN ( I could be mis-understanding your statement). Let us assume this number is X. X=205 or something.

    Lets say one particularly bad year, the total water available is only X+5 TMC ft. The above argument very nearly implies:

    “Give us our X (~205) and you get along with 5 however best you can”.

    I could be wrong, I hope I am wrong but thats how it came across. You may have covered it in your distress sharing points but I hope you can concede that the above statement is NOT fair.


  13. XYZ said, on February 19, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    The cauvery delta farmers have been dependent on kaveri for thousands of years.They were having access to perhaps 600 or moreTMC water for centuries.Now it has been pegged at 419 TMC.Karnataka which was enjoying about 100 TMC of water in the last century now has 270 TMC.
    This is the real picture.

    I am a great lover of karnataka.i respect kannada sentiments and am no fan of tamil chauvinism.But i cant help feeling kannada sentiments on this issue are similar to karunanidhi’s views on reservations.Do you want to finish agriculture in the delta.There is a lot of truth in what Revathi has said.

    The delta of Narmada is in gujarat,of krishna and godavari in AP.The rivers originate respectively in MP and Maharashtra.These rivers are fed by monsoon.The major share is enjoyed by the lower riparian states without acrimony.

    Why are rabid linguistic sentiments being whipped up against tamils.Why only tamils.This is again similar to anti-brahmin feelings in TN.

    I have great sympathy for kannadigas living within TN borders in hogennakal,hosur,dhenkanikotta,gudalur(ooty).Karnataka can leverage for better treatment of them in TN.Many linguistic groups live in karnataka.It has so much diversity .It is like our beloved nation.Kannadigas feel they are under seige.Malayalis,telugus are in large numbers in bangalore.but kannadigas are not found in these states.Why are tamils alone being picked out.When many tamil brahmins in madras have genuine sympathy for kannadigas.karnataka can ensure better treatment for kannadigas in kasargod(kerala,near mangalore).

    Kannadigas have to get their act together.These emotional and parochial outbursts will do her no good.

  14. realitycheck said, on February 19, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    >>Lets say one particularly bad year, the total water available is only X+5 TMC ft. The above argument very nearly implies: “Give us our X (~205) and you get along with 5 however best you can”. >>

    Jai, it does not work like that.

    If we have a particularly bad year, the share of the states will be proportionately reduced.

    If KA has a particularly bad year (read bad SW monsoon) but TN has a good NE monsoon, then the award accounts for that also. I may be wrong, but I think the catch is that the measurement for a good TN monsoon is at Mettur. Perhaps a case can be made for measurement at lower coleroon river at grand anicut. (Downstream from Grand anicut, the cauvery basically splits into numerous streams making measurement difficult).

    This is the problem with our political system and immature media. These important points are neither discussed nor shared with the public. Till today, I am not able to find a copy of the final award on the web. I believe even political parties have not got a copy yet.

    I think the award should have gone further to allay the fears of KA by more innovative thinking.

    1) Use a two year window instead of one for determining “normal”

    2) Impose strict rules on TN for improving its water resources and curb rampant sand mining. TN must also be made to strengthen and deepen its traditional tank-irrigation systems. Today there is rampant encroachment of these water bodies. These steps must be tied into the quantum of the awards.

  15. realitycheck said, on February 19, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    >> Thus what was established by might centuries ago was not a ‘fair deal’ and you are presenting that as precedent. >>

    No Jai. This is not a precedent at all. I was just saying that the historical claims of the delta farmers can be traced back to Karikala Cholan. This is just an explanation for why 28L Acres are under paddy in TN.

    Historical claims are not everything. They were never used to prevent KA from constructing many dams in the 1900s for example.

    >> 2. This above is akin to arguing that all the powerful classes should get away with any past oppression committed (SC / ST whatever) and there is no redressal needed since it was established historical fact. >>

    Absolutely. There can and never should be any redressal. To me redressal means reparations. Where is the end to it ? Should Muslims offer redressal to the hindus ? Should the British offer redressal to India ? Till date, only the jews have been given reparations (even that is disguised under slave labour wages).

    This is why I say we are all prisoners of history. We can only deal with today, not with yesterday. What we can do is offer affirmative action and a helping hand to those who are victims of history (i.e. Dalits *only* – others please excuse). The big problem in our country is how to you define and identify a victim. How can you prevent random claims of victimhood ? I digress now 🙂

  16. Jai_Choorakkot said, on February 22, 2007 at 5:03 am

    This has been an interesting discussion. I do not quite distinguish between ‘redressal’ and ‘helping hand’ and had that in mind, not reparations.

    One parallel I can think of:

    Local water source in a village- say pond or well- that the UC/ Brahmins have had a lock-hold on, let us say since Karikala Cholans time till almost 1920s. They have enjoyed privileged access to this water and control/restrict access of ‘lower castes’ to water in say a ratio of
    UC: LC = 600 : 100
    even though the LC are more in number than UC in that village and have been in a majority for centuries. This the UC could do because they wielded more power.

    By nearly all the arguments countering mine in this thread, they should be able to perpetuate this situation for all time into the future.

    I do see some differences but hope my opponents can see some parallels. The basic test I have is to be able to accept the solution you are proposing, after mentally transfering yourself sincerely to the other side (ie. accept your own solution, on yourself).

    Anyway I think we have run this into the ground.


  17. xyz said, on February 22, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    i am not able to understand your argument.may be i am not very clever.
    Every drop of water in kaveri is being utilsed.The irrigated area in karnataka was always very low,until the 20th century,That was because of the terrain.South karnataka is a plateau and the technology for dams was also limited.

    From the vedic age,indian people have resisted the idea of daming rivers as something against the rythm of nature.May be this idea was a direct outcome of the dessication of the rivers Sindhu and Saraswathi because of over use.The Harappans might have been guilty of an urban civilisation that did not protect the eco system of the rivers.

    Today environment science confirms ancient wisdom.Nobody is asking for a return to the past.But the Hindu religion has an ethical/ecological basis,albeit from the view point of the brahmanas and dominant castes.

    Irrigation in TN ,on the other hand is due to a barrage (not a dam) which diverted the waters into canals at the tail end of the river.In the chola land is blessed by nature.Because the chola land is flat alluvial plains.Unlike the Ganga which forms a huge estuary or the Godavari which is almost wild,Nature has marked out chola territory for agricultural settlements.Long before there were political entities called TN and Karnataka,the Chola kingdom was famed for its rice cultivation.As to why nature marks out some areas for her munificience,is beyond our conjecture.

    Kaveri is different from krishna because there is no surplus available.As i mentioned TN was enjoying more than 500 Tmc of water.This has been pegged down.Also karnataka which was enjoying around 150 Tmc in the early 20 th century has been assured of 270 TMC.Also karnataka is giving about 200 TMC,the rest of the water in TN’s share is from the tributaries in TN and the NE monsoon.I cant see much that is wrong in the tribunal order.there might be deficiency in the SW monsoon which has to be shared.But then the NE monsoon too can fail in TN.

    One must not forget that cauvery originates in kodagu,which has a distinct identity of its own.I think the problem is more due to the fact that kannadigas feel they are under seige and tamils are becoming soft targets.

    I repeat that dravida politicians have to understand the ethos of india and give up narrow chauvinist positions.More can and should be done for kannada self expression in TN.But kannada youngsters also need to shed chauvinist positions(on Cauvery) and engage TN on all fronts.

  18. Revathi said, on February 26, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Well said xyz. However, TN has not done enough to protect its water bodies. They need to look into this. Indeed TN can also pay back KA in the form of rice free or cost. Wouldnt that be fair?

  19. Jai_Choorakkot said, on February 26, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Good replies to my points. Analogies are nearly always stretches, their basic purpose is to make one think, “hey that doesn’t sound right” when the same situation is put in a different context.

    In this case, mine may have helped to move the argument substantially from history-based to geography-based and that is a lot fairer.

    If I were purely interested in a KA-oriented solution, I wouldnt be too unhappy with the history angle being pushed (it sure made the TN argument look bad) but the total solution is what I am interested in.

    I am no expert on this subject. It looks like I have said more than enough too. Lets hope for an agreeable resolution.


  20. xyz said, on February 27, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    The case of tributaries of cauvery which flow through TN.
    1) Noyyal is a “chakkadai(gutter drain) by the time it leaves coimbatore.
    2)Bhavani is another chakkadai because of effluent discharge from dyeing units.
    3)Every drop of Amaravathi is used up by the time it reaches karur to join the cauvery.This could be the fate of all rivers in india in a short time.
    Of course,our “rationalists” are not interested in these issues.

    Also after 1924,lands in erode,salem ,Tiruchi and South Arcot districts which were never irrigated by kaveri have also come under kaveri irrigation.Though these have lower priority compared to the cauvery delta in the allocation by the TN they are allocated water in turns after water is let off in the main course of the river.These i have gleaned from “Hindu” reports.Also many towns along the river and villages nearby are getting river water for domestic use.(drinking,washing etc).And sewerage is being released into the river.This is happening throughout india.

    Karnataka, a late entrant,is following suit.Bangalore which is 150 km from the river,as the crow files,is getting its water supply increasingly from cauvery.And there is truth in the kannadigas claim that tamils in bangalore
    are using a significant amount of cauvery water.

    We need a national water use policy to utilise and conserve our water resources.But these are not glamorous areas for the “scripwriter Kalaignar.”But reservation in iits is his fad/passion/all consuming obsession/disorder.

  21. xyz said, on February 27, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    The TN tributaries are not contributing a drop of water to the main river.I cant forsee this happening in kabini or hemavathi,primarily because of the terrain and forests.Though kerala can withhold 30 TMC in the coming years.Why? i will give a politically incorrect answer.because of the swarming population in kerala,commies and muslims/christians who care nothing for ecology/sacredness.I would say the river has survived so far in karnataka because of its hindu ethos.

    But i am afraid the kannadigas are fast catching up with their dravida brethren in TN who are pioneers in everthing shortsighted .

  22. tamilfriend said, on March 15, 2007 at 4:29 am

    What does KA do with the Krishna and Godhavari ? TN does not have anyother than Cauvery

  23. obc said, on April 4, 2007 at 8:32 am


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