The ongoing dispute over Cauvery water might have attracted the biggest protests and dharnas, but the issue of Cauvery water sharing with the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu is not new.
“Karnataka has suffered over 200 years due to its row over Cauvery river water sharing with Tamil Nadu, the first row had erupted in 1800-1801 when the farmers had taken objection with the Mysore government for expanding farming on Cauvery basin by the farmers of the Tirunalveli due to which an agreement was signed that dictated Karnataka to cut down all its water consumption in the basin,” said L Sandesh author of a Kannada book titled ‘Cauvery Kadana’ (on interstate water sharing disputes between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu published in 2003).
Speaking to DNA Sandesh said, “This legacy was continuing even after 200 years and today’s situation of Karnataka pertaining to the Cauvery water sharing was nothing better than what it had been 200 years back. The Madras Presidency under the British government had also signed a pact with the erstwhile Karnataka province in 1924 which was in force till 1974. The Karnataka government in 1948 after the independence had sought cancellation of all agreements that the British government had authored on water sharing between two states. But the Tamil Nadu government had sought court order to retain the spirit of the 1924 agreement. After the unification of Karnataka, the state government wanted the cancellation of the 1924 agreement on the ground that Karnataka was separated from the erstwhile Madras Presidency and was an independent state and a new agreement had to be scripted taking into consideration the new status of the Karnataka state. But the Tamil Nadu government stuck with the old agreement.”
Sandesh remembered that even when the KRS was built, the Karnataka government was made to run from pillar to post for 13 years to just to propose the construction of KRS reservoir. According to the figures in his book Karnataka has already released over 6000 TMC of water which the Tamil Nadu has used only fraction of it and rest it had allowed the water to flow into the Bay of Bengal. The farmer leaders and government functionaries in 1972 had proposed the construction of another dam at Mekedatu closer to the Tamil Nadu border under Karnataka-Tamil Nadu joint venture with participation from the central government that dam had not come up due to political reasons.”
Sandesh formed the Devaraj Urs Backward classes Association through which he tried to impress the state governments to construct the Mekedatu dam to put the dispute behind Karnataka.