Chennai: With the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) all set to meet on Wednesday after a gap of nearly 9 years, there is an uneasy calm prevailing among farmers in the Delta region. They are eagerly looking at the signals coming from Karnataka, where political parties have declared they would not release water to Tamil Nadu, as an indication of the stressful season ahead for cultivation. While a temporary relief was accorded to the farmers on Monday with the opening of the Mettur dam for Samba cultivation, farmer leaders who spoke to Express believe that the storage levels at the dam is grossly inadequate for the season.
As they pin their hopes on Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to make the case of the State forcefully with the Prime Minister at the CRA meet on Wednesday, cultivators say Karnataka is repeating certain arguments that it deploys whenever it decides not to open the sluices. According to them, despite the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) final award in 2007, Karnataka appears to be of the view that water shall be released to Tamil Nadu only when there is excess rain on its side.
“That the CWDT had clearly demarcated 419 tmcft water to us seem to be of no consequence to Karnataka,” says V Rajaram, working president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association (CDFWA). He points out that the all-party meeting called for by Karnataka Chief Minister recently provided two age-old arguments: that almost half the State was facing severe drought and drinking water shortage and that Tamil Nadu was in favourable position as most of its rain would be from the North-East Monsoon, that sets in in October.
“However, in case the NE monsoon too turns out like the summer monsoon, the region would face severe shortage in paddy production like we experienced in similar situations in the past,” says Rajaram, adding that in years when the Cauvery water was released in September-October, the yield of paddy had dropped to one-third of normal production.
General secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, P Shanmugam, says notification of the final award, which has been avoided to date by the Centre, was of paramount importance. However while legal recourse was necessary in the matter and has borne fruit earlier, there is a necessity to launch a broad movement outside the courts to force the matter upon the Centre. “In case of deadlock, political parties and farmer groups across the spectrum should come together for a mass movement,” he says.