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Shutdown, protests in Karnataka but state to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu

Bengaluru : The Karnataka government on Tuesday agreed to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu daily for 10 days from Wednesday as directed by the Supreme Court.

“Despite severe hardship faced by Karnataka, the state will release water as directed by the order of the Supreme Court,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told the media after a three-hour long all-party meeting at the state secretariat here.

Reiterating that the state was bound to abide by the apex court order under the Constitution, the chief minister said the state had accepted to release water with a heavy heart despite being in a distress situation.

“This is not a normal year but a distress year due to deficit rains during the monsoon season. As a result, there is not sufficient water in the reservoirs across the Cauvery basin to release or share it with Tamil Nadu as per the tribunal award,” he said.

At the same time, the chief minister assured the people in the Mysuru region that the state would continue to supply the river water for drinking and irrigation.

“We will soon approach the Supreme Court for modifying its order to ensure we will have enough water for drinking and irrigation in the region through the year,” Siddaramaiah noted.

The apex court on Monday gave Karnataka three days to respond to Tamil Nadu’s plea and release 15,000 cusecs of water daily for 10 days from September 7-16.

“As directed by the apex court, we will also approach the Cauvery Supervisory Committee and present our case for relief, as we are not in a position to release more water to Tamil Nadu due to insufficient water in the reservoirs,” said Siddaramaiah.

Admitting that the state was to release 94 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water to Tamil Nadu, but released only 33 tmcft due to poor rainfall in the catchment areas of the reservoirs in August, the chief minister said as a goodwill gesture, the state had agreed to release 10,000 cusecs of water daily for six days on September 2 when the bench asked the state to adopt the policy of “live and let live”.

“But the bench has directed us to release 15,000 cusecs of water daily for 10 days instead. As we cannot defy its order, we have decided to abide by it,” he said.

The chief minister also appealed to the people of the state to maintain calm and not to disrupt normal life by blocking roads and damaging public property.

Meanwhile, a day-long shutdown was observed in Mandya district to protest against the top court’s order to release the water to Tamil Nadu.

Besides disrupting normal life in the district, about 100km from Bengaluru, the shut down led to closure of schools, colleges, offices shops, hotels, theatres and petrol bunks.

Hundreds of protestors staged massive rallies and demonstrations in the district, blocking vehicular traffic on the Bengaluru-Mysuru state highway.

Though about 2,400 police personnel were deployed to maintain law and order, the angry protestors comprising farmers, traders and youth damaged the district office of the ruling Congress and attacked the state public works department office.

The state-run transport corporation (KSRTC) suspended bus services in the district and across the Mysuru region. Buses to and from Tamil Nadu across the border also did not ply during the day.

In a related development, police have tightened security and stepped up vigil in and around the four reservoirs — Kabini, Krishna Rajendra Sagar (KRS), Hemavathi and Harangi — in the river basin as hundreds of farmers threatened to lay siege if more water was released to the neighbouring state.

“We have also banned visitors and tourists from entering the KRS dam and Brindavan Gardens near Mysuru till September 9 to prevent protestors and agitating farmers from staging demonstrations or laying siege at the sluice gates,” a district official told IANS earlier.