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Water of contention

Wednesday - August 22, 2018 3:27 pm , Category : OPINION & INTERVIEW

WTN- The history of the Kaveri river water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu dates back to 1892, when Madras Presidency signed a treaty with the Kingdom of Mysore, followed by another such deal later in 1923 that sealed the modalities of the quantum of water Madras Presidency would get from the Mysore side of the Krishna. Modern day Karnataka, which was under the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom, feels the treaty is heavily tilted in favour of Tamil Nadu and demands the pre-independence treaties be deemed invalid and redrawn as per modern day needs.

Tamil Nadu in turn contends that it has already developed 12,000 sq kms of land based on the traditional usage pattern and any change in the same would jeopardise the lives of millions of farmers in the state. This has created a logjam of sorts for years and with both states unwilling to budge from the strident stands they have taken, there is no easy way out to broker peace between the two. There have been fights and flare-ups over the issue with mass mob tension, rallies and arsons in past years and courts, tribunals and PMs had to intervene several times to diffuse the tension and bring about an amicable truce.

Those efforts have brought temporary peace but the muffled dissentions continue on both sides which could escalate anytime the spark is ignited. Political leaders often play up the issue to polarise votes and whoever tries to take an objective route to settle it, fears facing people’s backlash. Therefore, the issue is kept boiling. It has also become a prestige issue of sorts for the states. One that gives is branded a loser while the one not getting enough water is seen as a loser. It is true that water is fast becoming a scarce commodity.
Rising population, decreasing rainfall and lack of proper storage and irrigation facilities is making water wars real, protracted and violent and the Kaveri dispute a worrying sticking point that is only going to turn uglier in coming times with growing demand for water on both sides. The states continue to run to the Supreme Court almost religiously every year with some claim or the other, with Tamil Nadu demanding more water and Karnataka denying more than a limited quota citing its own needs and problems. Temporary solutions are devised through carrots and sticks but the permanent sore remains festering. No one has a clue how or when the conflict will end. Perhaps, it will never end or end with the end of the river itself. One can only hope that the water war doesn’t turn bloody and lives are not lost. We may have to look beyond the Kaveri to find out means to solve the crisis.

-Window To News
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