A comprehensive and dispassionate discussion chaired by Prof. S L Rao, with Dr. A Ravindra, former Chief Secretary, GOK, Prof. V S Prakash, an eminent hydrologist and meteorologist, Prof M K Ramesh of the National Law School, Dr Veena Srinivasan of ATREE, and a well-informed audience, concluded that the problem is a very old one that gets forgotten after October when the North East monsoon hits Tamil Nadu. It was recognized as a failure of governance at all levels, Centre, states, talukas, and the technical committees formed by the Supreme Court for advise. The allocations of the river waters (in 1892 and 1924) between the two major riparian states (Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) need definition of principles and recalculation. The dispute must evolve principles that can apply to other disputes in India and could learn from the undisputed sharings in Europe with the Rhine, Danube and other rivers, which flow through many nations there.
There must be a mechanism in each state that uses weather forecasts to prepare for drought conditions to come. A major feature must be the decision to plant water intensive crops or alternatives. Technologies available to use less water must be propagated and used. Water must be charged for, a difficult political decision. Putting all rivers under the Centre in the Constitution must be considered. The excessive use of ground water that has led to fall in its levels has been helped by free electricity. It must be understood that ground water depletion leads to less water flows in the river, as is already the case.
Urban water use must also be controlled through appropriate pricing. Over 80% of urban waste water can be recycled for use as is done in Singapore so effectively.
With climate change, India is headed for water scarcity and must begin to use effective conservation techniques. These must include rain water harvesting, recharge of aquifers, storage in periods of good monsoons, recycling of water, desalination plants for sea water, cleaning up and desalting rivers, lakes and other water bodies.
There must also be greater give and take at the highest political levels which is no longer the case. The Union government must play an active role to further this. On present form, few of these may happen and India and the Cauvery seem fated to increasingly violent disputes.
Dr. A Ravindra, former Chief Secretary, who is also an urban expert, presented a detailed historical background of Cauvery River Dispute. He has also distributed His monograph on Cauvery water Dispute ‘A Bend in Cauvery’