The Cauvery river originates in the Brahmagiri ranges of Kodagu district, Coorg, and flows through large parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and also some parts of Kerala and Pondicherry.
It is considered to be one of the seven holy rivers of India and flows for about 381 km along Karnataka. The Cauvery dispute refers to a system of rivers consisting of the Cauvery itself and a number of tributaries such as Hemavati, Kabini, Bhavani, Amaravati and others. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the principal States in the Cauvery basin.
The 802-km-long river was not utilised for irrigation until 1883 when the diwan, K Seshadri Iyer, of the princely state of Mysore launched a scheme. The primary aim of the diwan was to increase the revenue of the king's coffers, but the move was immediately resented by the Madras residency under the British raj and since then began the long, complicated dispute over Cauvery which is yet to be resolved today.
After two rounds of talks between the Mysore state and Madras presidency in 1892 and 1924, the row settled down for a while. Mysore was permitted to construct a dam in Kannambadi village and to impound 44.8 thousand million cubic feet of water, while Madras was given the right to construct a dam in Mettur, Selam district and to impound 93.5 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) of water. Madras held what was then termed as prescriptive rights over some upper parts of Mysore. Malabar district, which is now part of Kerala, was also part of the Madras presidency then. So today, Kerala too finds itself in the middle of this dispute.
Part of the problem lies in the 1924 agreement which puts a question mark over whether it still binds present-day Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which cannot be entirely identified with the old Mysore and Madras, and the two subsequent emergent players in the dispute, Kerala and Pondicherry, who were not parties to the 1924 agreement.
Text: Sify News Desk
Image: Picture dated 15 September 2002 shows Cauvery river water being realesed from the Kabini Dam at Heggadadevankote province, Karnataka.