Bangalore recently witnessed an onslaught of protests and fires across the city, in response to the Cauvery water dispute with Tamil Nadu. These riots were a response to the verdict of the Supreme Court, which ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of river water into Tamil Nadu for ten days. However, while numerous media articles substantiated the cause-and-effect of this age-old dispute, not as many actually looked at the possible solutions. In this article, I’d like to examine a few methods for reducing our dependency on the Cauvery river, and for promoting water conservation methods.
Agriculture employs a majority of the Indian population but certainly doesn’t contribute to such a large portion of the GDP. This consequently leads to lower incomes and even poverty among farmers; these low incomes are only exacerbated by the shortage of water. Hence, if farmers are encouraged to shift into other flourishing sectors (such as the industrial sector), it would definitely lessen the harmful impact of water shortage on the livelihoods of Indian workers.
Water-intensive crops, also known as ‘thirsty’ crops, are those which require a relatively high volume of water in order to healthily grow. Prime examples of such crops include rice, cotton, sugarcane, and soya. Hence, encouraging farmers to cultivate crops which require less water would certainly reduce their dependence on the Cauvery river.
Bangalore boasts of a multitude of lakes—many of which are sadly riddled with polluting material. There have been several citizen movements whose aim is to revive the lakes of Bangalore. Hence, in the long run, developing alternate sources of drinking water can be highly successful in reducing our dependence on Cauvery water.
There are several ways in which communities and individuals can save water—such as by practising rainwater harvesting, fixing leaks, installing water-saving shower heads, using washing machines for only full loads of clothes, or even planting drought-resistant plants and shrubs!
A major reason behind the riots and bandhs across Karnataka was the politicisation of this issue. Rather than leaving such an incendiary issue in the safe hands of agricultural and social experts, it was left to the politicians. The issue of water division is largely scientific, and should consequently be treated as a scientific issue.
Water is a basic necessity for all of us; in fact, it has even been speculated that the next World War (should there be one) will be a global conflict over drinking water! Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have presented crucial and valid points to have more water directed into their state; for example – while a large portion of Karnataka’s Cauvery basin comes under drought-affected land, Tamil Nadu has a higher population density and hence more people to cater to.
Hence, there can be no answer that will completely satisfy both states, given the sensitivity of the issue and differing notions of equity. So, rather than looking at the political side of this problem, let’s try to join hands and help out in our own way.