Bangalore: A team of central government officials arrived here on Thursday to assess water availability in the Cauvery river and Karnataka's requirement in the wake of intensifying agitation against the release of water to Tamil Nadu. The team would on Friday visit Cauvery basin district of Mandya, about 80 km from here, where the Krishnaraja Sagar dam, from which 9,000 cusecs of water is being released to Tamil Nadu daily, is located.
The team's assessment would help the Cauvery River Authority, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to decide whether to accept Karnataka's plea to allow it to stop the release of water to Tamil Nadu. Karnataka has been releasing 9,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu from last Saturday on the directive of the Supreme Court. The directive came after Karnataka declined to accept the Sep 19 Cauvery River Authority order to release water from Sep 20 to Oct 15.
Mandya is the epicentre of protests against the release of water. Farmers in the district launched relay hunger-strike on Thursday, a day after their attempt to lay siege to Krishnaraja Sagar dam was foiled by the police. Demonstrations continued for the fifth day in Mandya and neighbouring Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts and also in Bangalore where a group of farmers tried to 'gherao' (lay siege to) Raj Bhavan, the governor's residence, in the city centre. Road traffic between Bangalore and Mysore was disrupted for several hours for the fifth day on Thursday.
All political parties in the state, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular, are opposed to the release of water on the grounds that Karnataka is hit by the worst drought in 40 years and water in the reservoirs in the Cauvery basin is barely adequate to meet the state's requirements. On Thursday, Leader of Opposition in the assembly Siddaramaiah of the Congress started a 'padayatra' (foot march) from Mysore to Mandya, a distance of 50 km, in support of the agitating farmers.