Sunday, Apr 06, 2003
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By T. Ramakrishnan
Describing the panel as a "preliminary and tentative" committee, a statement, issued at the end of the deliberations, stated that the group would be reconstituted with more members after the next round of talks, planned to be held in Karnataka in early June.
It would look into all aspects of the Cauvery issue and strive for a solution. At present, a representative of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, which organised the Chennai dialogue, would serve the Committee as a `catalyst', the statement added.
Attended by more than 100 farmers, academics and NGOs from the major riparian States of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the meeting not only brought together the agriculture community of the two States but also made them believe that the long-standing dispute could be solved through farmers-to-farmers dialogue.
The ryots' leaders and resource persons focussed on optimising use of currently-available water in the "best possible manner" for the "benefit of all riparian States". They also emphasised the "absolute need" for continuing the dialogue among farmers and keep up the "people-to-people" contact, the statement added.
Pointing out that there was still scope for the parties to come to a settlement (outside the ambit of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal), the former Union Water Resources Secretary, Ramaswamy R. Iyer, said if such an understanding was arrived at, it could be presented to the Tribunal for ratification.
He recalled that this was the method adopted in the case of the Godavari dispute. Even in Narmada, the basin States came to an agreement on the quantum of available water, which was subsequently submitted to the Tribunal concerned.
On the Cauvery dispute, he said there was no point in debating the pros and cons of the 1892 and 1924 agreements. "Let us not waste too much time over that", he urged the farmers of the two States, adding that what should be done was to find a solution, keeping in mind the existing pattern of use of Cauvery water.
"There is no hierarchy of rights but only that rights (to use Cauvery water) are equal (among the parties concerned)".
S. Koulagi, a close associate of Jayaprakash Narain, said the Gandhian concept of `Sarvodaya' (betterment of all) was relevant in the Cauvery issue too.
The plight of the poorest of the poor farmers, be they in Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, should not be lost sight of, while attempting to resolve the dispute.
B.S. Bhavanishankar, president of the Bangalore-based Sahayoga and former advisor to the Karnataka Government, said the problem could be solved by augmentation. To achieve it, a series of pumped storage schemes along the Western Ghats could be established, as a large quantum of water went waste into the Arabian Sea. This venture could be implemented with the available infrastructure in the power sector and with the help of the private sector.
K.C. Basvaraj of Mysore University argued that Tamil Nadu ryots should use more groundwater. Arupathi Kalyanam, farmers' leader from Mayiladuthurai, replied that of 35 blocks in the composite Thanjavur district, 15 had already been declared `over-exploited' and in another 15, only a limited quantity of good-quality groundwater was available, beyond which it was saline water.
Among those who addressed the two-day meet were D. Gangappa, president of the All-India Water Users' Federation and former IAS officer, and N. Natarajan, technical adviser to the Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers' Welfare Association, who suggested the construction of at least one more dam across the river, in Mekadatu or Rasimanal.
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