CAUVERY-The Water Mark

Cauvery Dispute



What is Cauvery water dispute?

  • The Cauvery river flowing through Southern India and traversing expanses of Karnataka as well as Tamil Nadu is getting parched at an adverse rate due to its dependence on South-West monsoon which is becoming uncertain and risky by the day.
  • The political canopy over the agitations over distribution of the drying up Cauvery river is hiding beneath it the grave human-induced activities majority responsible for this aggravating situation.
  • In good years when there is enough rainfall, there is no discord between the two states, but in bad years like the one we are facing now, it turns into a political battleground rather that being an opportunity to bring about a coordinated effort to frame long-term solutions to such problems since climate change would bring about unknown changes in our environment which are uncalled for.


Activities aggravating the water scarcity issue:

  1. The Cauvery river’s fertile basin had encouraged growth of forests, agriculture, industry but all of these are scattered haphazardly and now stand threatened.
  2. Deforestation across the basin has contributed to reduction in rainfall, soil erosion, flooding with hundreds of thousands of trees being decimated to make way for plantations, urban construction and agriculture.
  3. In place of forests plantations of water hungry tree such as Eucalyptus and Acacia are further reducing the water table.
  4. In Coorg through local groups have agitated against felling of lakhs of trees for the construction of a new railway line from Mysuru and a high tension power line. But all in vain as there is no support from local people or administrator despite warning of effect on the river
  5. Rapid urbanisation has converted fertile agriculture, forests and wetlands into concreted areas that are unable to retain rainwater or channel them into tributary streams that feed the Cauvery.
  6. Urbanisation demands concrete, concrete require sand. In districts surrounding Cauvery sand mining has altered the natural topography of the river, eroding its banks, widening the river and altering water flow patterns.
  7. Wells, that replenish farms across the basin are running dry so, farmers are forced to abandon agriculture and rent their farms to sand contractors for sand storage, thus becoming complicit in their own destruction.
  8. Large number of dams across the river contribute to a significant decrease in rivers capacity for water storage siltation in dams and connecting river channels has reached alarming proportions.
  9. Industries along Cauvery and its tributaries send large volumes of polluted water that far from being of use to farmers, destroy their land beyond redemption.
  10. Widespread changes in farming and agriculture patterns exacerbate the problem. Over an area of millet cultivation the Cauvery basin has transformed into a location for cultivation of high yield paddy and sugarcane both water intensive crops.


Suggestions/ steps to be taken to solve the crisis:

  1. There is a need to redesign farming system keeping in mind in particular the water requirements of the crops planted after the onset of South-West monsoon.
  2. Attention should be payed on land use pattern at regional level to prevent the stress from burgeoning on the basin topography.
  3. We need to find ways to recharge the river, increase inflow of water, cleanup hotspots of pollution, increase efficiency of water use.
  4. Afforestation along the river basin should be taken up on a war footing, move to water efficient cropping, limit industrial pollution of rivers, ban excessive sand mining and limit growing consumption of water in urban areas.



As the impact of climate change is prominently visible we are going to face many more seasons of drought and points of conflict. It is important that we think on long term basis and in a coordinated fashion to survive the self created fallouts of natural phenomena.

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