Indian court gives Bangalore more water under river-sharing deal

Security forces making their way past burning lorries in Bangalore in September 2016, when protests erupted after the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release extra water from the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu.
Security forces making their way past burning lorries in Bangalore in September 2016, when protests erupted after the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release extra water from the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • India's water-starved tech hub Bangalore received a much-needed boost when the country's top court altered a river-sharing arrangement in its favour, ruling on a bitter and long-standing dispute.

The Supreme Court said last Friday that a 2007 ruling by a special tribunal on river-sharing had failed to take into account Bangalore's growing water needs, and awarded a greater share to the southern state of Karnataka.

Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru, was once known as India's garden city for its many lakes and parks, but developed a serious water shortage in recent years, as workers flocked there to take up jobs in the tech industry.

Known as the Silicon Valley of India, the Karnataka capital now has a population of more than 10 million and is one of the country's fastest growing cities.

Rampant population growth has left some of its famous lakes so polluted that they regularly catch fire spontaneously.

The river-sharing issue has become hugely emotive in the city.

It suffered deadly protests in 2016 when the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release extra water from the Cauvery river to ease a shortage in Tamil Nadu.

Decades of population growth and uncontrolled urbanisation have created a water crisis in India.

The World Resources Institute, a Washington-based research group, says the national supply is predicted to fall to 50 per cent below demand by 2030.

The Cauvery rises in Karnataka and flows into the Bay of Bengal through Tamil Nadu.

Its waters - fed by India's annual June to September monsoon rains - irrigate crops and provide drinking supplies for both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

A tribunal set up in 1990 awarded Tamil Nadu 11.9 billion cubic metres of the estimated total of 21 billion cubic metres of Cauvery waters. Karnataka was given 7.66 billion cubic metres.

The two states have repeatedly resorted to legal action to win a bigger share of the waters.

Under Friday's ruling, Karnataka's share will increase to 8.09 billion cubic metres, drawing from Tamil Nadu's share of the waters.

The remaining water volumes are taken up by Kerala state and Puducherry territory, according to Indian media reports.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Indian court gives Bangalore more water under river-sharing deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe