How to solve the Cauvery Problem; Prevention is better than Cure

The water war between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with extreme emotional involvements is shameful to say the least. Are we living in a civilized country?

It is a pity that no serious attempts have been made to find a solution for this century old problem. We have succeeded in putting into orbit not one but large number of satellites together and sending a mission to Mars, with a higher success rate than even some advanced countries. But, sadly, we have failed to solve many of our pressing problems including this century old Cauvery problem because of lack of vision, human approach, innovative thinking and sense of commitment.

To solve the Cauvery problem preventive approaches with vision are essential.

Many areas of Karnataka in Western Ghats generally get plenty of rain and large part of it is not utilized properly. Number of huge storage reservoirs can be constructed in high level areas of Western Ghats for storing rain water, after surveys to identify suitable areas. In a few years, water level will reach the maximum storage capacity of a reservoir. Meanwhile, irrigation canals can be constructed to divert this water to Cauvery river at suitable places so that water can be sent through these without any delay. In this manner, all reservoirs along Cauvery river can have maximum storage most of the time. Whenever there is excess water it can be released to Tamil Nadu in addition to normal releases, with a neighbourly spirit.

To use this excess water, reservoirs can also be constructed by Tamil Nadu at high levels near Karnataka border for storing excess water and released by gravity flow to wastelands in Tamil Nadu for cultivating fruit trees which require less water. This will not only lead to utilization of waste lands but also increase in fruit production and reduce the current exorbitant prices of fruits. Moreover, this will also compensate to a large extent the cutting down of trees, if needed, for construction of the reservoirs in both states.

If these reservoirs in Western Ghats are constructed in valleys surrounded by hills, they can store plenty of water during rains. Selection of grass lands or areas with fewer trees will reduce cutting down of trees. To increase capacity of reservoir, dig earth in the selected area and use it to create bunds all around. This will also reduce its spread and thereby reduce tree loss. Rows of trees can be planted on both sides of the irrigation canals.

All these will ensure a net increase in number of trees.
Proper choice of trees can also ensure that biological diversity is not upset.

Planning these reservoirs with vision and innovation can lead to many more benefits for Karnataka and Tamil Nadu:
If these reservoirs are constructed in areas with scenic beauty, these can be made into tourist attractions with hotels and house boats. The hilly terrain will attract adventure tourism. Possibility of seeing wild animals will be another attraction. Academies for swimming and other water sports can train athletes who can compete in major tournaments and avoid miserable performance in future Olympics.
Edible fish (including special varieties) can be grown in these reservoirs. This can be another attraction for tourists. This will also reduce the prohibitive cost of fish and make fish affordable to people in surrounding areas.

An added attraction may be using this water for generation of electricity.
Another advantage of such constructions and facilities and their maintenance is creation of jobs, particularly for working class people.

Karnataka government ought to form a team of engineers to take up these projects with broad vision and make needed improvements to this composite multipurpose plan. Then the government ought to implement this preventive and multipurpose plan immediately to permanently solve the century old Cauvery problem and derive the multiple economic and other benefits pointed out earlier.

If monsoon failure occurs before this project becomes completely functional the following steps can be taken:

Political leaders in both states, particularly the CMs, can meet with a human (non-political) approach and discuss about arriving at a compromise solution with a spirit of give and take. Because mistrust regarding exaggeration of claims of water shortage on both sides had existed for many years, they can approach an independent professional organization to prepare a report about the ground level realities on both sides to provide an acceptable basis for friendly discussion.

Both states can make arrangements for groups of farmers from affected areas of either state to visit the other side to personally observe problems faced by both states. This will convince both groups of farmers about the need for compromise with a human approach.

After their visits, the farmers on both sides can agree on compromises required. For example, they can mutually decide to reduce the area under cultivation to what is possible with the available water. Both governments can support this move by paying compensation to the farmers for the loss likely to be incurred by reduction in cultivation. The amount required for this will only be a fraction of the huge loss which will be incurred by violent fights and bandhs.

To reduce the need for water, both governments can carry out experiments to find out crops which need less water and encourage their cultivation in suitable areas in both states.

These strictly bilateral human approaches with spirit of compromise discussed above will lead to multiple benefits: (1) prevent emergence of hate among neighbours and ensure peace in both states (2) prevent huge economic loss, violence and large scale destruction of properties and (3) avoid the need to have tribunals to order release of water.