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Monday, September 12

Water allocation dispute in South India misses the point

In ordering the release on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially accepted Tamil Nadu’s claim that Karnataka had diverted 50 billion cubic feet of water that it was required to provide to Tamil Nadu under terms of a 2007 agreement. Karnataka had argued that it simply lacked adequate water reserves, so that a release of that magnitude endangered its residents’ well-being.

Are we going to treat this by addressing scarcity? Probably not,” said Nilanjan Ghosh, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation here and an economist working on water issues.
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Ghosh characterized the dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as an "ego issue" between the two states and the two state leaders. I'd say it's more an ostrich issue -- by Ghosh's own analysis. 

The water-allocation dispute is not at crisis level but will be in the event of a weak monsoon in the south this year. Karnataka can't afford a weak moonsoon -- not this year or any year in the foreseeable future. That's because the state is home to Bangalore, which is a megacity, India's 'Silicon Valley,' the country's third most populous city and fifth most populous urban agglomeration in India and fourth-ranked city by overall GDP contribution after only Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, according to Wikipedia.  

The problem facing Karnataka is not only a need to improve water infrastructure and teach farmers to grow less water-intensive crops. This is a fundamental problem of pell-mell development outstripping water supply in a country with megapopulations that are increasingly dependent on water-hogging urban infrastructures. Same problem China has been facing for years -- and now China is running out of time and water. Same problem in many parts of the world. 

It's the same problem because they keep missing the same point. 

If you show them a picture of a city skyline and ask, 'What do you see?' they reply, 'A city.'  

Yes, but it's also a man-made desert. Yet that's only half of it. The other half is the huge migrations to the cities, which leave behind rural lands that are soon rendered desert, or where industrial-scale farming for export that replaces small farms sets up conditions for desertification. 

It's said that humans are tool-makers. We are also desert-makers. That's the point.       

Violence Erupts in Southern India Over Order to Share Water
By NIDA NAJAR
September 12, 2016
The New York Times

NEW DELHI — Violent protests broke out in the southern state of Karnataka on Monday after the Indian Supreme Court ordered the state to release water to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, the latest chapter in a longstanding dispute.
The authorities in the Karnataka city of Bangalore banned public gatherings and deployed riot police officers as protesters set fire to vehicles and pelted buildings and cars with stones. The police fired on protesters who were setting fire to police vehicles in Bangalore, killing one and injuring two others, said Madhukar Narote, an assistant subinspector for the state police.
Protests raged elsewhere in the state as well. Several trucks that were burned had Tamil Nadu license plates, said Chandrashekhar, a deputy commissioner of police in Bangalore who goes by one name.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Karnataka would have to release 12,000 cubic feet of water, or almost 90,000 gallons, per second to Tamil Nadu every day until Sept. 20 from the Cauvery River, which originates in Karnataka and flows downstream to Tamil Nadu. It is the main source of water for the states’ thirsty rice crops, particularly in the event of a weak monsoon like this year’s in the southwest.
“Our only appeal is if you are protesting, please protest peacefully,” the Karnataka home minister, G. Parameshwara, said at a news conference on Monday. “We know injustice has been done to Karnataka,” he added, citing the Supreme Court order.
Water disputes over rivers are common in India, where droughts and weak monsoons weigh heavily on the majority of the country that still lives off agriculture. Experts say that the lack of a centralized plan for allocating scarce water resources contributes to the problem.
“Are we going to treat this by addressing scarcity? Probably not,” said Nilanjan Ghosh, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation here and an economist working on water issues. He said that in drier years it was important for the authorities to encourage farmers in the region to raise less water-intensive crops.
The Supreme Court had ordered Karnataka last week to release 15,000 cubic feet per second of water to its neighbor for 10 days, beginning on Sept. 5. A lawyer for the state said that it did not have enough to release that much, and cited tensions over the decision. The new order, while cutting the amount released, extended the period by five days.
In ordering the release on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially accepted Tamil Nadu’s claim that Karnataka had diverted 50 billion cubic feet of water that it was required to provide to Tamil Nadu under terms of a 2007 agreement. Karnataka had argued that it simply lacked adequate water reserves, so that a release of that magnitude endangered its residents’ well-being.
The water dispute has provoked ethnic resentments on each side of the border. On Saturday, a Tamil student in Bangalore was publicly beaten, according to local news reports. The attackers took a video of the beating and posted it online, prompting the police in Bangalore to open a case on Monday. On Monday, protesters in Tamil Nadu attacked a hotel owned by a Karnataka native, The Press Trust of India reported.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court noted that violence could not be the basis for modifying an order. “The citizens cannot become law unto themselves,” it said.
The chief minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday urging him to intervene. Mr. Siddaramaiah also wrote to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu on Monday, asking him to provide police protection for Karnatakans who live in Tamil Nadu and are at risk of revenge attacks.
Mr. Ghosh said, “It’s an ego issue between the two states and the two leaderships.”


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