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August 8, 1998


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Quiet can the Cauvery flow now

The final hurdle in settling the Cauvery issue was overcome on Saturday when Karnataka and Tamil Nadu arrived at an agreement on the role and functions of the monitoring committee.

Thus, the Centre can now report to the Supreme Court by the deadline of August 12 that a scheme is in place to implement the seven-year-old interim award of the Cauvery water tribunal, by which Karnataka will release 205 TMC of water every year to Tamil Nadu.

The chief ministers of the four riparian states -- TN, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry -- had come to a broad agreement on all contentious issues barring the role and functions of the monitoring committee at a high level meeting convened by Prime Minister A B Vajpayee on Friday.

The Centre had constituted a drafting committee, headed by the cabinet secretary, to go into the issue. The committee, comprising chief secretaries of the four states, met late Friday night and came out with a four-point formula devising the role of the monitoring committee.

On Saturday, the formula was approved by both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

According to the strategy, the monitoring committee would render assistance to the authority to enable it to take decisions on all issues. It will assist in the collection of information and in monitoring the implementation of the authority's decisions. In case any difficulty arise in implementation, the monitoring committee would report it to the authority.

The committee will also assist the authority in setting up a well-designed hydro meteorological network in the Cauvery basin, along with a modern communication system and a computerised control room for data processing to determine the hydrological conditions in the basin.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi said the Cauvery Basin Authority, chaired by the prime minister and the monitoring committee, would confine themselves to the implementation of the interim award of the Cauvery water tribunal.

It would be the tribunal that directs the implementation of the final award, he said.

Talking to the media at the Madras airport, on his arrival from New Delhi, he said all the four states wanted the final award to be pronounced soon.

To a question, he said the Centre would formally announce its scheme to implement the interim award once work on the terms of the monitoring committee was completed. This would be over in a day or two, he added.

Admitting that slight differences persisted between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on the monitoring committee's powers, Karunanidhi, however, said this would not affect Tamil Nadu.

Replying to a question, he said the CBA would meet often if necessary. Certain powers of the CBA would go to the monitoring committee. The details were being worked out by officials, he added.

He ruled out the possibility of Karnataka refusing to implement the interim award saying, "We have come to a gentlemen's agreement yesterday to benefit the people of all the concerned states."

The CBA could take appropriate action in case of any complaint about violation, he pointed out.

To a question, Karunanidhi said there would be no takeover of dams across the river by the CBA as envisaged in the earlier draft scheme. This was because the prime minister was now chairing the CBA himself, he pointed out.

Asked to comment on the national river water policy, he said this policy and the Cauvery water dispute were two different issues. Tamil Nadu had long been demanding the setting up of the tribunal and later implementation of the tribunal's interim award, he added.

Appreciating Prime Minister A B Vajpayee's patient approach in conducting the talks, Karunanidhi said he would also thank Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jaswant Singh, Defence Minister George Fernandes and all others who participated in the talks.

He said he was keen that the breakthrough in the talks should be achieved in a conducive, amicable atmosphere without fanfare to ensure that there was no bitterness among the people of the riparian states.

Asked if the breakthrough could serve a model for the August 13 talks to be held at Thiruvananthapuram between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the Mullaiperiyar and Parambikulam-Aliyaru issues, he hoped that the talks would lead to an amicable settlement.

Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel today expressed satisfaction over the outcome of the Cauvery talks in Delhi and said, "It is the only honourable way that the states concerned could arrive at an agreement."

Talking to newsmen in Bangalore on his return from Delhi, Patel said, "We have reached a stage that if the Centre submitted a favourable reply to the Supreme Court, the Cauvery will not be a source of trouble anymore."

He said the problems which arose so far were mainly due to political reasons.

Patel said though the state legislature had expressed its opposition through two resolutions to the implementation of the interim order of the tribunal, under which the state had to release 205 tmc ft of water at Mettur, the Supreme Court order was final and the issue had to be considered legally.

Meanwhile, the major breakthrough achieved in resolving the vexed Cauvery water dispute has evoked mixed reactions in Karnataka.

Pradesh Congress president Dharam Singh said the decision arrived at the chief ministers' conclave in Delhi was "not a good one". The state was opposed to constitution of the Cauvery river authority. Since Prime Minister A B Vajpayee would be heading the authority, he hoped that the former would not succumb to political pressures.

Lok Shakthi president Jeevaraj Alva and the Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed the development. Dr Alva said the outcome of the Delhi meeting appeared to be fair and expressed confidence that the prime minister would do justice to the state.

Well known economist D M Nanjundappa said the development was in the direction of solving the vexed dispute without detriment to the legitimate interests of Karnataka. He hoped it would pave the way for an amicable settlement.

He, however, expressed unhappiness over the hard stand taken by Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry on the constitution of the river water authority for monitoring the release of water by Karnataka.

In Pondicherry, Chief Minister R V Janakiraman, thanked the prime minister for finding an amicable settlement to the Cauvery water dispute.

In a press release issued from the chief minister's office, he welcomed the proposal for the setting up of the water authority under the chairmanship of the prime minister and the monitoring committee.

Meanwhile, the All India Anna DMK and its allies have rejected the accord on the grounds that it is against the interests of the farmers in Tamil Nadu.


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