Every year, in June and September-October, riparian states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu enact a ritual fight over ‘how many tmcft’ (thousand million cubic feet) of water from the river Cauvery each gets. In June 1991, the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal had issued an interim order directing Karnataka to release 205 tmcft water to Tamil Nadu on an annual basis but that hardly settled the issue.
The latest crisis owes to two reasons—Prime Minister Vajpayee rejecting Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha’s proposal that the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) set up a panel of senior technical officers to monitor the reservoirs in Karnataka; and chief minister S.M. Krishna’s position that the tribunal order could be implemented only when there was sufficient rainfall. In the last ‘water year’ (June 1, 2001, to May 31, 2002) Karnataka had released 215 tmcft. But the latest monsoon hasn’t brought cheer to either state. The total inflow into Karnataka’s reservoirs has been just 4.9 tmcft, as against 23.9 tmcft of water in the corresponding period last year.
Jayalalitha has accused her counterpart of "storing water in its unauthorised reservoirs". But since she can’t summon the rains, she announced a Rs 164-crore relief package for agricultural workers in the delta, where the kuruvai crop (April-July) has to be skipped yet again. Meanwhile, Vajpayee, attempting a truce, has called up Krishna and asked him to release some water.
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