Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 5 News List

India's Karnataka State on high security alert

TROUBLED WATERS After years of bitter deliberations, the Cauvery Waters Disputes Tribunal found in favor of Tamil Nadu and awarded it far more water than Karnataka


The southern Indian state of Karnataka was on high security alert yesterday after a tribunal ruled against it in a century-old water dispute that triggered deadly riots in 1991, officials said.

Schools, colleges and businesses were shut as politicians across the state protested Monday's verdict.

After 17 years of often bitter deliberations, the Cauvery Waters Disputes Tribunal found in favor of neighboring Tamil Nadu and awarded it far more river water than Karnataka.

Riot police, who patrolled the streets of the state capital Bangalore overnight, were still out in force early yesterday, an AFP reporter said.

Security had also been tightened along Karnataka's borders with Tamil Nadu, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

"There is anger that we got less water," auto-rickshaw driver Mohammed Ansari said.

"Traffic is thinner than normal, most shops are closed," he added.

Many Indian and foreign technology firms, based in the IT hub of Bangalore, said they feared they would have to stay closed yesterday.

The Cauvery river rises in Karnataka and flows into the Bay of Bengal through Tamil Nadu.

Its waters -- fed by India's June to September monsoon rains -- irrigate crops and provide drinking supplies to the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as well as neighboring Kerala and Pondicherry.

The tribunal, set up in 1990, awarded Tamil Nadu 12 billion cubic meters of the estimated total 21 billion cubic meters of Cauvery waters. Karnataka was given 7.5 billion cubic meters, with the rest shared by the other two states.

Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy called an all-party meeting for later yesterday to review the ruling, with newspapers saying officials were "shocked."

The minister told PTI that steps had been taken to maintain law and order in the wake of the award and appealed to farmers and other organizations to maintain peace.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunnandihi welcomed the order, voicing hoped that Karnataka would implement it.

The modern dispute began in 1974 when an agreement inked in 1892 on the sharing of the waters lapsed.

That was the year when the British Madras presidency (now Tamil Nadu) forced the Maharaja-ruled Mysore (modern Karnataka) not to use the Cauvery waters without its permission.

The bickering has continued ever since, with the two states repeatedly resorting to legal action to win a bigger share of the waters.

A 1991 interim court order telling Karnataka to release 6 billion cubic meters of water to Tamil Nadu sparked riots against minority Tamils in Bangalore, leaving about 20 people dead.

Karnataka cable operators across the state have previously blacked out Tamil-language satellite channels and banned Tamil films to show their resentment in the past.

The Hindu newspaper called the tribunal's decision "eminently implementable," describing it as "a just and equitable settlement of ... an issue that has defied all attempts at negotiations and mediation."

The daily urged political leaders from both states to accept the deal and forget "chauvinism."

The agriculture sector -- heavily reliant on the monsoons -- employs two-thirds of India's work force and contributes up to a quarter of India's economic growth.

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