Kaveri: Whose Water is it Anyway?

Several people are asking what is my/Loksatta’s position on the Kaveri water-sharing dispute between our state and Tamil Nadu. This dispute predates independence – and it is a shame that our policymakers have been unable to resolve this issue to this day.

At Loksatta, we have been discussing about what should the sustainable and peaceful long-term solution – while keeping in mind that we need to resolve the short-term needs of this particular season/year immediately. We want to propose real workable solutions – rather than merely doing what most politicians are doing – i.e. simply declare a ‘political stand’ eyeing on upcoming elections/to maintain current seats and such.

Developing an implementable solution focusing on our state’s needs, while ensuring we are also fair to Tamil Nadu, cannot be done overnight, but we must do it pretty quickly. I will share some of the thoughts here.

Ideally, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu should come up with cooperative approach and decide how to share Kaveri water during good years as well as drought years. However, there is complete lack of trust among us in any data provided by Tamil Nadu – and Tamil Nadu people do not trust any data provided our state government. (I think we may have lost a window of opportunity to develop the interstate water policy during these ‘peace’ times. Without high emotions raging on both sides of the dispute, we could probably have had an equitable and agreeable solution mostly based on scientific facts and long-term view.)

To me, it is very illuminating that when rains were satisfactory over last few years, the Kaveri issue didn’t take the center stage in Karnataka or Tamil Nadu politics. This means that the real root cause of the issue is the scarcity of water. And the scarcity of freshwater will only continue – with continuous depletion of ground water, increased urbanisation, increased population, environmental pollution, need for hydro-power generation etc – unless we begin to do things differently. Our problem is not unique to us. Every state – and indeed every country – is facing an issue of disappearing water supply – and desperately trying to figure out how long we can get by before serious drought hits us. Some even say that the next world war is going to be about water!

Just like any sophisticated camera, most of us see things very differently when we change our ‘lens’. Looking at the water problem merely as ‘sharing the current small pie’ will not take us too for. We must conserve/increase our overall water supply. About 65% of Kaveri water is used for irrigation. We need to see how we can make our agriculture less dependent on water. Also, Bangalore’s population has doubled in just about one decade – and Kaveri water can only be stretched so long. We should take multiple measures to increase Bangalore’s water supply. We should seek funds from the center to overhaul Bangalore’s water infrastructure – to make it more efficient, plug any leaks, multiple uses of same water – as well supplement city’s water supply from local sources such as well-maintained lakes, proper recycling of water.

Our lawmakers have learnt merely to do protests and walk-outs whenever they face an issue rather than developing well-thought out, well-researched, well-advocated win-win solutions. We owe to ourselves and our future generations to resolve Kaveri issue quickly – as well as develop a national policy that should guide the way we share our common resources.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by har.sri.ga on October 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    The rain water which falls in the Kaveri basin of Karnataka, certainly belongs to Karnataka. It has to serve the needs to the people who are residing in the basin. The downstream basin cannot treat the upstream region as water tanks, we are source of water only!
    So, if they need water at X time of the year ; then they have to store water instead of eyeing on our dams!


  2. Posted by Chetan on April 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I cudnt see any solution at all provided here…the problems are explained thats it,,but i dont see any solution or any plans to resolve the issue.


  3. Posted by Prashanth on May 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

    i am not sure if the politicians of both states have not thought of the points opined in the column but feels that the issue is kept burning for political reasons and get milage as and when required.


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