A high-level technical team set up by the Centre to study the ground reality in the Cauvery river basin said that Karnataka and Tamil Nadu both face water shortage, and that farmers in both states have been suffering. Its findings were submitted to the Supreme Court in a report on Monday, which said that 42 of the 48 taluks in the river basin in Karnataka were drought-affected.
Members of the panel – headed by Chairperson of the Central Water Commission GS Jha and formed by the Ministry of Water Resources – surveyed areas in the Cauvery basin from October 7 to 15. They also found that tanks in the region had dried up, and that there was no water for cattle either. "Both states need to appreciate the interests of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry to protect their established irrigation [systems] and Karnataka's aspirations for development...," the report said, adding details of the quantum of water required in both states.
The team inspected the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini dams in Karnataka and the Mettur and Bhavani Sagar dams in Tamil Nadu. Members spoke with officials of local Public Works Departments and farmers in Tamil Nadu's Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Nagapattinam, as well, according to Hindustan Times.
The panel's report was submitted amid protests in Tamil Nadu over the ongoing water-sharing dispute between the states. Several political parties and farmer groups on Monday started a two-day-long rail roko demonstration and also demanded that the Centre set up a Cauvery Water Management Board. The main Opposition party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, also called for an all-party meeting to discuss the water-sharing dispute.
The committee was set up on the instructions of the Supreme Court on October 5. Its report is meant to help the top court decide on the amount of Cauvery water Karnataka needs to release from Tuesday, October 18, when the next hearing in the matter will be held. On October 4, the Supreme Court had directed Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of water from the river to Tamil Nadu every day from October 7 to 18.
The Cauvery issue escalated after the Supreme Court, on September 5, directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water from the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu. It later modified its verdict and reduced the quantity to 12,000 cusecs, but the order had led to widespread protests by farmers in Karnataka, who had argued that the state needed the water more than its neighbour. While Karnataka had earlier defied Supreme Court orders and decided against releasing water to Tamil Nadu, it released 6,000 cusecs of water to the neighbouring state late on October 3.