Kaveri River Water Dispute


Water is the essential part of human life. It is impossible to think even a day without water. From ancient time there has been origin of many long rivers in Indian plateau. Some of the perennial rivers of India are river Godavari, Narmada, Krishna, Cauvery/Kaveri etc. with the advancement in technology there has been rapid growth in the population, which has lead to high increase in demand of basic necessities of life.

Although India is covered with water from three sides (west, south, east); still India is facing water crisis, droughts, water disputes and many other water related problems. The biggest example to prove this statement is “Cauvery Water Dispute”, which has once more taken flame.


Root line of Cauvery River:-

River Cauvery is one of the largest river in India. It stretches from  Talacauvery, Kodagu in Karnataka and ends in Poompuhar, Tamilnadu and drains out towards bay of Bengal. Approximately Cauvery river is around 81,155 square kilometers (31,334 sq. mi). while flowing south and east of Karnataka this river and its tributaries covers four different states and union territories viz.,

Tamil Nadu, 43,856 square kilometers (16,933 sq. mi);
Karnataka, 34,273 square kilometers (13,233 sq. mi);
Kerala, 2,866 square kilometers (1,107 sq. mi) and 
Puducherry, 160 square kilometers (62 sq. mi).

cauvery tributaries



Left tributaries of river Cauvery are: Hemavati, Shimsha, Arkavathy

Right tributaries of river Cauvery are: Kabini, Bhavani, Noyyal, Amaravati


cauvery basin

Importance of river are Industry, wildlife habitats, transport, Farming, Energy etc.

Water dispute over Cauvery River:-

Facts: The issue on the sharing of the water of River Cauvery has been faced over century. This conflict between the former Madras presidency and Princely State of Mysore, rests in two agreements in 1892 and 1924. State of Karnataka contended that it is not receiving its deserving share of water. Karnataka also alleged that the agreement so made is exclusively in favour of the Madras Presidency and had requested for renegotiation over the topic. They demanded for renegotiation on ‘equitable amount of sharing of water”.

On the other hand Tamil Nadu takes a defence that it has already developed almost 3,00,000 acres of land which is 12,000 km2 of lands, and because of this they do not want to change the already existence of pattern of distribution of water, as they are in heavy use of it .

There had been years and years of negotiation over the issue, but the authorities were unable to come at any mutual appropriate decision. After seeing all this Government of India had to finally intervene into the matter.
Government constituted of a Tribunal to handle this dispute, in the year 1990. Matter went into discussion in the tribunal for over 16 years. Finally, after hearing both the parties thoroughly and listening to their arguments the tribunal gave its final decree on 5th February on 2007. By the virtue of this verdict, the amount of water to be shared by four states were:
Karnataka   – 270TMC
Tamil Nadu –
419 TMC
Kerala           –
30 TMC
Puducherry –

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu became the major shareholder. Non-of the states very ready to agree to this decision and they decided to file a review petition in order to get a proper clarification and understanding to the verdict.

cauvery river
cauvery river

Budding of Dispute:-

The moment at which the issue to its spark lies at the time of British rule in 80`s. Various different plans were drawn by both the presidency then, Madras and Mysore. But unfortunately there arose a drought in mid-1870`s so they were unable to execute their plan.

By the time of 1881 Mysore once again came into the hands of Mysore Kings while on the other hand Madras was still British Presidency. Mysore so decided to revive its plan and implement it.
Mysore had a plan to revive ‘irrigation plan’ but Madras opposed it and this was the beginning of dispute. Then Mysore made representation to Madras Presidency which was British Government. Even after this Madras refused to accept their plans of building dams.

On seeing this issue taking fire a conference was held in the year 1890. The purpose of this conference was to bring mutual settlement between the two regions. The maxim of this conference was modus vivendi. This conference would grant Mysore in dealing with irrigation works and Madras practical security against injury to interest. Finally, the agreement on this was signed in 1892. Everything seemed to be sorted out and at peace but it was not so, very soon the silence was broken.

In 1910 Mysore under the rule of King Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar and along with Capt. Dawes as Chief Engineer came forth with the plan of construction of dam at Kannambadi village. This dam was supposed to be made to hold up to 41.5 TMC of water. The construction of dam was to be completed in 2 stages. In the first stage the storage capacity of about 11 TMC was planned and the rest in the remaining stage. Madras refused to agree with this plan, as it had its own plan of building dam at Mettur having capacity of 80 TMC.

Matter was referred to Government of India. Government granted permission to Mysore but for construction only 11 TMC dam. At the time of construction of this dam, the base for construction of remaining dam was made. This outraged Madras and dispute continued further. The matter was again opened in front of Government of India. The then Government of India approached to Arbitral method to resolve the dispute. This step was taken by the virtue of Rule VI of the 1892 agreement. Thus for the first time the dispute was referred for arbitration.

Sir H D Griffin was appointed arbitrator and M. Nethersole, the Inspector General of Irrigation in India, was made the Assessor. Parties entered into proceeding in 16th July 1913 and in 12th May 1914 the Tribunal gave its decision. The decision of the government of India was upheld and so Mysore was allowed to carry out its plan of construction 11TMC storage dam.

Madras disagreed to this decision and negotiation continued. After numerous meetings and discussion an agreement was made in 1924 along with many minor agreements signed in 1929 and 1933. As per one of the clause of 1924 agreement, the agreement would cease to be in operation after 50 years.

The dispute came to rest after this agreement.


India got Independence in 1947 and this joy came a sorrow of partition, not only partition which brought India and Pakistan into existence but on the other side there was partition of already existing state of India and changing their boundaries. By this partition big parts of former Hyderabad State and Bombay Presidency joined with Mysore state. Parts of Malabar which earlier formed part of Madras Presidency went to Kerala. Puducherry emerged as sole state which will be under the Central Government i.e. Union Territory in 1954.

All these changes once against brought the Cauvery dispute in light, as the parts of River Cauvery and its Tributaries were un evenly divided in four different existing states. So, it was very important to redistribute the format in which the states are supposed to share the water from river Cauvery.

Also the 50-year agreement plan of the previous agreement was about to end. Both state and Central Government came forward, held several meetings, many discussions were made for over 10 years, to find the solution.


Dispute with its Verdict:-

1. 1991
After arouse of the dispute ones again, the Supreme Court of India ordered for setting up of Tribunal to settle the Cauvery dispute. This procedure was mandate for solving the inter-state water dispute. Both the parties were given equal chances to present their saying in front of the Tribunal. After hearing both the sites Tribunal ordered to release 205 TMC of water every month from river Cauvery and its tributaries.
Karnataka rejected to follow the order passed by the tribunal, by giving the reason that it is not implementable. That same year there was not sufficient rainfall in the tributaries of Cauvery and stated that it is not possible for the government to release more than 100 TMC of water under such situation and if that happens to be done it will have to be done at their own cost.

2. 1996

Before 1995 there was sufficient rainfall in the year 1992, 1993 and 1994. But in the year 1995 there was insufficient rainfall which could not fill the river Cauvery and its tributaries properly. On 1st January 1996 the former PM Narasima Rao asked Karnataka to immediately release 6 TMCFT to Tamil Nadu so as to protect the standing crops.

3. 2002
In 2002 the heat was once again at its peak as monsoon failed in both the disputing states. Once again the Tribunal was set up and the tribunal did not consider this crucial situation and ordered for interim award.
After the release of interim award Tamil Nadu urged that Karnataka should respect the order and obey it by supplying appropriate amount of water to Tamil Nadu. Even after this Karnataka advocated that the level of water in the river is very low even to suffice their own need and it is impossible to full fill the interim award under the existing situation.

4. 2007
The Cauvery water dispute tribunal gave its final judgement on 5th February 2007. According to this decision the

Tamil Nadu was supposed to get 419 billion ft. (12 km3),
Karnataka would get 270 billion ft. (5.4 km3),
Kerala would get 30 billion ft. and                                                                                                                         Puducherry would get 7 billion ft.
Since the verdict was favoring Tamil Nadu they easily accepted it, on the other hand Karnataka Government refused to accept it so filled a petition for seeking review.

cauvery tribunal award

5. 2012

Ex-Prime Minister ManMohan Singh, who was also the Chairman of the Cauvery River Authority, ordered Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of water from River Cauvery to Tamil Nadu. This order was passed on 19 September 2012.
But Karnataka again refused this proposal stating it to be impracticable owing to the drought condition. In order to show it`s protest against the decision passed the members of the Karnataka authority walked off from the high-level meeting, which was exclusively held to resolve this dispute. Karnataka once again filed a review petition, to examine the order passed on 19th The petition was filed before Cauvery River Authority on 21st September.

After this, issue took huge fire.

24th September 2012-
Repeatedly seeing this attitude of Karnataka, of not accepting any of the courts or Tribunal or authorities order, Tamil Nadu filed a petition in Supreme Court on 24th September. The petition was filed so as to command Karnataka to abide by the order passed before.

28th September 2012-
On this day Supreme Court trashed the Karnataka Government for not obeying the order passed by the Cauvery River Authority and also blamed them for all the agitation and riots which took place in Karnataka over this issue.

4th October 2012-
After Supreme Court`s verdict Karnataka Government filed a stay order petition till 15th October.

6th October 2012-
There were riots, strikes and violence all over the state to protest against the order.

8th October 2012-
On seeing such reaction of Karnataka and people, Supreme Court gave the verdict in favor of Cauvery River Dispute. Outraged by this Karnataka completely stopped the water supply to Tamil Nadu.

15th November 2012-
The CMC i.e. Cauvery Monitoring Committee issued an order to Karnataka state to immediately release 4.81 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu.

6th December 2012-
Supreme court directed the Karnataka government to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. Also, Supreme Court ordered Central Government to properly notify the order passed by the Cauvery River Authority in 2007. All this decision was given on considering the standing crops in both the states.

6. 2016

After Supreme Court`s order in 2012 this issue went silent and finally their peace was resorted back in these disputing states. Put this peace was not for the long time. Once again in 2016 there was violence in these states. On 5th September 2016 Supreme Court ordered to release 15,000 cusecs of water from river Cauvery to Tamil Nadu every-day for next ten days. Later on 12th September 2016 Supreme court changed its order and said the Government of Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu till 20th But soon after hearing this order of Supreme court agitation aroused in the people of Karnataka, which took the shape of violence and riots on 15th September 2016. There was strike allover Karnataka, buses, train or airplane were seeing working over there.


Latest News about Cauvery dispute is that SC doubled the Quantum of water for Tamil Nadu till 27th September 2016. SC asked central government to set up Management Board within a month. Soon after the order of the SC, Siddharamaiah chaired the meeting of Senior minsters and with Congress minister. He requested the people of Karnataka to maintain peace.

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