1. Introduction
  2. History of the Kaveri water issue
  3. Why confusion  over creation of Tribunal?
  4. Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal(CWDT)
  5. 2012 and the final showdown:
  6. The future, what lies ahead:


  • The peninsular rivers as one must have studied in geography , are depended on the annual monsoon. So their flow is dependent on the success/failure of monsoon.
  • This year the monsoons were not even close the expectations.
  • So the states that have been sharing the river waters have come under extra pressure to save their farmers, among which, the already heightened battle is the Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
  • This issue is definitely not new and has been raging for more than 5 decades now.

Map-cauvery river


Tmcft Thousand million cubic feet. Unit of volume which means total water released.
Cusecs Cubic feet per second. Unit of flow which means the water flow released continuously.


History of the issue

  • The river Cauvery has been shared by the states under 2 agreements – The Interstate agreements of 1872 and 1924.
  • All was well, till the late 1960s when Karnataka wanted to build 4 new reservoirs in the tributaries of Cauvery.
  • The Planning commission did not approve to give funds and neither did the Central government.
  • But Karnataka state went ahead with the building of the reservoirs with its own funds. These reservoirs were

Map-Kaveri pilgrim

  1. Harangi
  2. Kabini
  3. Hemavathi
  4. Suvarnavathy
  • This diverted some of the water of Cauvery due to which Tamil Nadu protested.
  • It directed the Centre to create a Tribunal.
  • But since the Centre did not create one, Tamilnadu moved the SC to order the centre. The tribunal was finally formed in 1990.

Why confusion  over creation of Tribunal?

Article 262 neither the Supreme Court nor any court shall exercise jurisdiction in water dispute between states.

But the Supreme Court commented that it can however order the Centre to create a Tribunal which it is supposed to do so under the Art.262 and the Interstate Water Disputes Act,1956.

Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal(CWDT)

  • To cut short to the story, the CWDT came up with its final order in 2007, giving
region Water (tmcft)
TN 419
Karnataka 270
Kerala 30
Puducherry 7
  • Both Karnataka and Tamilnadu contested this CWDT order in the Supreme Court via Special Leave Petitions (SLPs), which are still pending.
  • This has prevented the Centre from publishing the CWDT award in the gazette(which means it will implement the award).
  • In the meanwhile, because of the long time the CWDT took to give its decision, it gave an interim order in 1991 itself for the riparian states.
  • To implement this interim measure, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and the Cauvery Monitoring Committee(CMC) were formed.

2012 and the final showdown:

  • Among all this drama, confusion and powerplays there emerged a new problem.
  • The CWDT did not come up with a formula for situations when the flow in Cauvery was low(meaning a drought kind situation).
  • This is why the issue has flared up so much in 2012 as this year Karnataka has refused to release water on this basis.

Karnataka side

Tamil Nadu side

  1. Low monsoons, so low flow in Cauvery. Water not enough for their own farmers.
  2. Very unstable political situation in Karnataka with 3 CMs changing.
  3. So Cauvery being a very sensitive issue nobody wants to give it up easily.
  1. Samba crop growers are mainly dependent on Cauvery river. Irrigation is the main water source in the area. So their livelihood in danger.
  2. The government not wanting to notify the final order of CWDT is also agitating, as there seems to be no end to the problem.
  3. The government replied that it will notify the CWDT tribunal’s award by December end. But it has not done so. The reason is still not known(maybe even political). TN was wishing that there could be some relief if the gazette notification comes (in 2007 itself) but even after the Tribunal’s award the issue has been politically and legally entangled for the past 5 years. So TN’s position is in a deadlock.
  • Amid this the Supreme Court had asked the 2 Chief Ministers to meet up and try to finalize on the issue but that too failed.
  • Supreme Court also asked the Central government whether it had any intention to publish the CWDT tribunal award for which the Centre has replied that it will publish the award by December end but it has not done it.

The future, what lies ahead:

  1. The Centre must publish the CWDT order as soon as possible.
  2. In the middle of all this the CWDT chairman has resigned, and no new chairman has been assigned yet. So the new chairman has to be assigned who has to be going-to-retire SC judge.
  3. The CRA and CMC were only interim measures and thus when the award is published they will cease to exist. A new Cauvery Management Board (CMB) has to be formed to oversee the proper distribution of the river.
  4. The major cause for the confusion is the SLPs being admitted in the SC. They have been pending for the last 5 years. They must be done away with as soon as possible.
  5. Proper use of the Cauvery water by both sides so that they don’t become too dependent on the water.
  6. The water sharing formula in low flow years must be formed with as soon as possible.

Mock Questions

Q1. find Correct statements

1. The SC enjoys original jurisdiction over Interstate water disputes

2. Article 262 empowers the SC to create Tribunals for Interstate river dispute

  1. only 1 correct
  2. only 2 correct
  3. Both correct
  4. Both Wrong

Q2 The Kaveri river is shared between

answer choice:

a) 1,2
d)All the four


  1. Suggest measures to solve Cauvery conflict.
  2. If case a stressful board, Why do you think your state deserves more water? Is it fair? (applicable to both states candidates)