Cauvery row may be back in PM's court

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 09, 2012 08:42 hrs

New Delhi/Bangalore: The Cauvery water row returned to the prime minister's court Monday with the Supreme Court saying that he can decide on Karnataka's plea to allow it to stop water release to Tamil Nadu immediately.

Soon after the apex court's clarification, Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar announced in New Delhi that the state would petition the prime minister late Monday or Tuesday to immediately stay his Sep 19 order to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from Sep 20 to Oct 15.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given the order as the ex-officio chairman of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA).

However, at his separate meetings with BJP and Congress leaders from Karnataka Monday, the prime minister did not agree to their demand for immediate review of the CRA's decision asking Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu.

Hearing a petition by Karnataka seeking relief on the ground that it was not in a position to release the water, a bench of Justice D.K Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur said: "Our order of Sep 28 shall not in anyway be an impediment in the way of chairman CRA to take decision on review application by the Karnataka government."

Karnataka moved the apex court as it had rapped the state Sep 28 for not obeying the CRA order and directed it to release the water.

It started releasing 9,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu daily from Sep 29, a move that has led to widespread protests in Bangalore and Cauvery basin districts of Mandya, Mysore and Chamarajanagar - 80, 130 and about 200 kms from Bangalore, respectively.

The state saw a day-long shut down Oct 6 protesting the water release.

The protests were frowned upon by the Supreme Court Monday.

Justice Jain told senior counsel Fali Nariman, who is heading Karnataka's legal team on the issue, that "all these agitations don't serve any purpose. Sometimes they may spoil a good case".

However, the protests continued Monday in Bangalore, Mandya and Mysore.

The apex court's clarification came even as the prime minister was under intense pressure Monday from central ministers from Karnataka and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs from the state to review and stay his directive to release water till Oct 15.

The prime minister ruled out a review of the CRA's decision. Congress union ministers from Karnataka S.M. Krishna, Mallikarjun Kharge and K.H. Muniyappa and BJP MPs from the state including M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar met the prime minister separately seeking a review of the CRA decision.

Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters that both the groups sought a stay.

"The prime minister told them that it is not permissible as there is no mechanism under CRA to change its award. The CRA will have to meet again for any such thing," Bansal said.

He said the central government will act keeping in mind the interests of both the states.

The Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC) is expected to meet in the capital Oct 11 to decide on the issue. It will consider the report of two teams of central government officials which visited Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Friday and Saturday to assess the situation in the two states.

Bansal said the CMC will decide on the issue in consultations with the states. "If it fails, the issue may be referred back to CRA," he said.

He said could be a change in the situation following the onset of North-East monsoon in Tamil Nadu. Earlier, Congress leaders from Karnataka briefed the prime minister on the "grim" drought situation in the state.

Kharge told reporters after the meeting that they appealed to the prime minister "to resolve the problem at the earliest".

Kharge said the team informed Manmohan Singh about the drinking water needs of Bangalore, Mandya, Hassan and Mysore and water requirement for the standing crops in the Cauvery basin area in the state.

A delegation of 16 BJP parliament members from Karnataka also met Manmohan Singh, pleading with him to provide immediate relief to the state.

Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting that the delegation informed the prime minister that Tamil Nadu had sufficient water and did not need water from Karnataka.

Earlier Monday, Shettar met Krishna in New Delhi seeking his help to prevail upon the prime minister to provide relief to the state over Cauvery water.

Karnataka has declared 150 of the state's 176 taluks or revenue subdivisions as drought hit. It says the drought is the worst in 40 years and water in the reservoirs across the Cauvery river is just adequate to meet its needs till the monsoon returns next June.

Besides Cauvery basin districts, Bangalore also is heavily dependent on Cauvery water.

Of its requirement of around 1,350 million litres daily (MLD), about 950 MLD is drawn from the Cauvery river, which has its source in Talacauvery in Kodagu district, about 330 km from Bangalore, and traverses over 800 km through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before flowing into the Bay of Bengal.

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