The Cauvery river has been the source of tension between the two southern states in India, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, for more than a century. Photograph:( WION )
Acting on the Supreme Court's direction, the Centre today constituted a Cauvery Water Management Authority (CMA) to address the dispute over sharing of river water among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
On February 16, the apex court had directed the government to form the CMA within six weeks in a verdict that marginally increased Karnataka's share of Cauvery water, reduced the allocation for Tamil Nadu and sought to settle the protracted water dispute between the two southern states.
In a gazette notification, the Ministry of Water Resources said it has framed a scheme constituting the CMA and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee to give effect to the decision of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal as modified by the Supreme Court order.
The authority would comprise a chairman, eight members besides a secretary. Out of eight members, two each will be full-time and part-time members, while the rest four would be part-time members from states.
The chairman of the authority should either be a "senior and eminent engineer? with an experience of water resource management and handling of inter-state water dispute or an IAS officer with an experience in water resources management and handling the inter-state dispute.
He will have the tenure of five years or until he reaches the age of 65, whichever is earlier.
An emotive issue in all the states concerned and Puducherry, the demand to constitute the authority was one of the reasons behind disruption of the Budget Session by the members of the AIADMK who demanded the constitution of the board.
The apex court, in its verdict delivered on February 16, had asked the Centre to frame the Cauvery management scheme, including creation of the Cauvery Management Board.
The scheme would deal with the issue of water share of the four states in different circumstances like normal and deficient water years in the Cauvery river basin.
It had raised the 270 tmcft share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu's share, while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin, saying the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a "higher pedestal".
The authority will exercise power and discharge such duty for "sufficient and expedient for securing compliance and implementation" of the Supreme Court order in relation to "storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters".
"If the authority finds that any government of the party states, namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Union territory of Puducherry do not cooperate in implementing the decision or direction of the tribunal, it can seek the help of the central government for implementation of the award...," the notification said.
Further, if any delay or shortfall is caused in release of water on account of default of any party state, the authority will take appropriate action.
The authority will also supervise operation of reservoirs and with regulation of water releases therefrom with the assistance of regulation committee, the notification said.
The authority will also look at regulated release of water by Karnataka, at the inter-state contact point presently identified as Billigundulu gauge and discharge station, located on the common border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The notification further said that the authority at the beginning of the water year (June 1 each year) would determine the total residual storage in the specified reservoirs.
"As, 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 per cent dependable year (yield 740 TMC)," it said.
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 ten days of the season on the basis of the share worked out for each party state, limited to the water requirements during the same period indicated by each party state by placing an indent of water demand with Cauvery Water Regulation Committee," it added.
The authority has also been tasked to advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency, by way of promoting micro-irrigation (drip and sprinkler), change in cropping pattern, improved agronomic practices, system deficiency correction and command area development.
It has to also prepare an annual report covering the activities of the authority for the preceding year.
The Centre will initially contribute a sum of Rs 2 crore for the functioning of the authority.
Also, the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee has to meet once in 10 days during the months of June and October when the south-west and north-east monsoon set in and again after the monsoon has set in.