Normal life was crippled Saturday in the state capital and in several parts of Karnataka during a day-long shutdown over releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna warned of a “disaster” if water release is not stopped immediately.
The 12-hour shutdown from 6 a.m., called by Kannada organisations and supported by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), evoked near total response in Bangalore and Cauvery basin districts of Mandya, (80 km from here), Mysore (130 km) and Chamarajanagar(about 200 km).
Government buses, auto-rickshwas and taxis were off the road. Schools, colleges, markets, cinema houses and eating places were shut and even cable TV operators blocked all entertainment channels. Only news channels were on air till 6 p.m.
The response to the shutdown in several parts of north and coastal Karnataka was lukewarm.
Except for an isolated incident of pelting of stones at government buses early Saturday, the shutdown was peaceful, a police spokesperson told reporters in Bangalore.
Buses and auto-rickshwas started plying after 6 p.m. and shops reopened.
Krishna, who belongs to Mandya district, the centre of Cauvery agitation whenever monsoon fails and the state has to release water to Tamil Nadu, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Krishna, who is in the US, wrote that “the entire state is waiting with bated breath to get immediate relief as otherwise it will spell disaster for the population in the Cauvery basin”.
He urged the prime minister “to explore possibilities of stopping further release of water from dams in Karnataka”.
“I sincerely feel that the situation needs your immediate attention, if it is to be prevented from worsening, as there is already a strong feeling among people of Karnataka that they may have to face severe shortage of water in the months to come,” Krishna wrote. The letter was released to the media here.
Krishna told the prime minister that the monsoon season was over in Karnataka (June to Sep) while the north-east monsoon would commence in Tamil Nadu (later this month).
Saturday’s shutdown was against Karnataka releasing 9,000 cusecs water daily to Tamil Nadu from last Saturday.
Karnataka started releasing the water on the directive of the Supreme Court, which rapped it for not obeying the Sep 19 order of the prime minister, who is also the chairman of the Cauvery River Authority, to release the water from Sep 20 to Oct 15.
Karnataka has appealed to Mamohan Singh to withdraw his order. The state’s petition to the Supreme Court for relief will be heard by the apex court Monday.
The shutdown did not affect train and flight services but passengers were stranded at the railway station here, as auto-rickshaws and taxis remained off the roads.
Companies offering 24x7 services like call centres and business process outsourcing had to make arrangements
Karnataka facing drought: Official
Karnataka is facing a drought and water levels in reservoirs across the Cauvery river basin have dropped due to deficit rains, a Central Water Commission (CWC) official said Saturday.
“I have realised that there is drought in Karnataka due to deficit rainfall and water levels in the reservoirs of Cauvery are lower than last year due to a weak monsoon,” Central Water Commissionmember K.C. Jacob told reporters here.
Assuring the state government that he would mention on his assessment of the ground situation in his report to the central monitoring committee (CMC) of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA), Jacob said he met scores of farmers in Mysore and Mandya districts and heard their grievances.
“I will communicate to the CMC on what I have seen and grievances I heard from the affected farmers and their families,” said Jacob, also a chief engineer in the water resources department.
The five-member central team Friday visited the two worst drought-hit districts Mandya and Mysore and assessed the damage to crops caused by a severe drought, depleting water levels in the river basin reservoirs at Kabini and Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam, about 120 km from Bangalore.
Headed by Central Water Commission directors B.P. Pandey and D. Ranga Reddy, Jacob, another chief engineer Manmohan and Union agriculture ministry’s deputy commissioner P.K. Saha, the team also discussed the amount of inflow and outflow at the reservoirs and collected data on area of cultivation, water availability and crops grown in the old Mysore region.
The team also flew early Saturday to Hassan district, about 180 km from here, for an aerial survey of the river basin reservoirs in Harangi and Hemavathi command areas.
In a related development, state water resources minister Basavaraj Bommai and state chief secretary S.V. Ranganath met CMC chairman and union Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh here and discussed the situation arising out of the Sep 28 Supreme Court’s directive to comply with the Sep 19 CRA order to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to the neighbouring riparian state (Tamil Nadu).
“We have apprised Singh and his central team of the grim situation across the Cauvery basin and the depleting levels of water in all the four reservoirs. A delayed and weak monsoon led to 43 percent deficit rainfall in the catchment areas and drought conditions in the region,” Bommai told reporters later.
The state requires about 30 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water for drinking purpose and 38 tmcft for harnessing the standing crops in both (kharif and rabi) seasons.