Chanakya IAS Academy Blog


Supreme Court verdict on the Cauvery water sharing dispute

Recent Supreme Court verdict on the Cauvery water sharing dispute will serve as a guideline for the other water disputes in the country.

The significance of the judgment

  • Drinking water needs of human beings and animals should be the first charge on any available water. The States shall first allocate water to satisfy vital human needs.
  • Water is a ‘scarce and precious national asset’, and being in a state of flow, no State can claim exclusive ownership of its waters or assert a prescriptive right so as to deprive other States of their equitable share. The precious right should be equally and reasonably shared by all States concerned.
  • Equality here means “equal consideration and equal economic opportunity of the co-basin States”.
  • The SC referred to the Helsinki and Campion Rules.

Helsinki rules recognize the equitable use of water by each Basin State taking into consideration the geography and hydrology of the basin, the climate, past utilization of waters, economic and social needs, dependent population and availability of resources.

Campion Rules hold that basin States would in their respective territories manage the waters of an international drainage basin in an equitable and reasonable manner.

Resolving an inter-State water dispute is mainly about balancing the competing genuine demands and interests of each State and coming up with a pragmatic sharing arrangement.

Implications of the verdict

  • The verdict, in principle, now allows aggrieved states engaged in inter-state river disputes to gather data and stake claims based on available levels of groundwater.
  • Drinking will be given priority for agricultural and industrial purposes.
  • Trans-basin diversion to Bangalore is detrimental and would lead to chaos.

Way Forward

  • The judgment, however, does not provide for distress years when water in Cauvery basin depletes from the 740 tmc available during a normal year.
  • Being water-scarce areas, the general public should judiciously use water as a limited asset.
  • Scientific irrigation methods like drip and sprinkler irrigation should be adopted.
  • Rainwater harvesting model of Tamil Nadu should be adopted in Karnataka and other state
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