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Signalling its inability to spare Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as per the Supreme Court direction, a special session of the Karnataka legislature today adopted an unanimous resolution to use the water only to meet drinking water needs and not to provide it for any other purpose.
"An impossible situation wherein it is not possible to comply with a court (order) has been created," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said in his reply, maintaining that the state was in "severe distress" and struggling to meet even the drinking water needs in the Cauvery basin.
The resolution did not refer to the apex Court direction to the state to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu from September 21 to 27 but is expected to put Karnataka on a collision course with the judiciary.
Siddaramaiah said "nobody should construe as if we are challenging the Supreme Court" and added that his government had equal respect for all the three organs -- legislature, executive and judiciary, "more so for judiciary."
"People have given us a mandate. We cannot defy it," he said, adding, otherwise, "it would be a dereliction of duty on our part."
Prefacing his remarks on the water crisis in the state, he said, "we have great respect for the judiciary. The intention is not to disobey the judicial order. We will not think of it even in our dreams."
Highlighting the "state of acute distress", the resolution, endorsed by all parties, said it was "imperative" that the government ensures that no water from the present storages be drawn "save and except" for meeting drinking water needs of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and Bengaluru.
The interests of the inhabitants of the state are likely to be gravely jeopardised if water in the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin was in anyway reduced other than for meeting the drinking water needs of the people in the Cauvery basin, including the entire city of Bengaluru, it said.
The resolution moved in English by Opposition BJP leader Jagadish Shettar and in Kannada by Y S V Datta of JDS pointed out that the combined storage in four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin -- Krishnaraja Sagar, Hemavathy, Harangi and Kabini -- had reached "alarmingly low levels at 27 TMC ft."
"It is now resolved to direct that in this state of acute distress, it is imperative that the government ensures that no water from the present storages be drawn save and except for meeting drinking water requirements of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and Bengaluru," it said.
The Legislative Council also passed a similar resolution
after a brief sitting.
Siddaramaiah said Karnataka is in a distress situation with two successive years of drought.
He said "We are holding this session in the midst of a worst situation. There is deficit rainfall in the catchment areas of four reservoirs KRS, Hemavathi, Harangi and Kabini. Such situation had never arisen in the past."
Considering the average rainfall of 41 years, the state should have received 254 TMC water in the four dams by now, but it was 124 TMC, with 48 per cent deficit, he said.
He said the four dams as on today had a storage of 27.6 TMC of water but "from today to May end we need 24.11 TMC water for drinking purpose for cities, towns, villages in the Cauvery basin and the whole of Bengaluru city. This is only for human consumption, other than this we need to provide water to cattle and animals. Water also gets evaporated."
"While we are struggling to provide even drinking water till May end....This is our distress. They (Tamil Nadu) are asking for water for Samba crop," he said.
He said the Mettur dam in Tamil Nadu had 52 TMC ft of water while farmers in Karnataka were "making sacrifice (with no water for crops)."
Siddaramaiah also said according to the National Water Policy, the first priority was for drinking water, followed by irrigation and power generation.
"For us farmers are one-- be it in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka or Kerala," he said.
Siddaramaiah also pointed out that though Tamil Nadu was not a stakeholder in the Krishna river water sharing dispute, Karnataka had agreed to spare 5 TMC ft for drinking purpose to Chennai, as also Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra sparing an equal quantum.
He said besides 52 TMC ft storage in Mettur dam, Tamil Nadu would also have the benefit of North-East monsoon which would last till January unlike Karnataka where South-East monsoon ends in September.
"If we give 6,000 cusecs of water (to Tamil Nadu)... where do we go for drinking water. Can we create a crisis situation for drinking water," he said.
Siddaramaih said the state is in a situation where it has
to "preserve" water for drinking purpose.
Stating that both the state and the government had no intention to disrespect or disobey the judiciary, the Chief Minister said respecting the three organs -legislature, executive and judiciary-is our "political dharma".
"Despite all the difficulties from September 7 to 20 for 14 days we have complied with the Supreme Court order by releasing 12,000 cusecs water to Tamil Nadu," he said.
He also promised that government will consider crop compensation to farmers in the Cauvery basin.
The Cauvery Supervisory Committee had on September 19 asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs daily from September 21 to 30, but the apex court had on September 20 doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs from September 21 to 27 after Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.
It had also directed the Centre to constitute within four weeks the Cauvery Water Management Board as directed by Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in its award.
Backed by an all party meeting mandate, the state cabinet had on Tuesday decided to defer the release of water to Tamil Nadu and convene a day's legislature session amid escalating row between the two neighbouring states.