Kamal Hasan says ‘shocked’ at SC Cauvery verdict, but warns against politics of water

One of the dams on Cauvery

Upcoming politician Kamal Hasan expressed ‘shock’ that the Supreme Court has reduced the quota of water allocated to Tamil Nadu from the river Cauvery, but said the matter should not be exploited for votes.

“Like the farmers in Tamil Nadu, I am also shocked at the reduction of water,” said Hasan, who is currently building a new political party in Tamil Nadu to fill the vacuum created by the demise of Jayalalitha.

However, Hasan sought to balance his views and warned against simply using the emotive issue of water sharing for votes.

“They have done their due diligence, and apportioned it this way,” he said. “Now, instead of politicians meddle with this for their vote hunt, we should ensure that amity is conserved.”

Questioned why he was talking about the matter if politics should be kept away from it, he said there was a difference between using the issue for ‘vote hunting’ and talking about it.

“They can talk (about the water issue), it’s a basic need,” he said. “Even I’m doing it. People will talk about it.”

Hasan also said that there was some consolation in the fact that the Supreme Court has made it very clear to Karnataka that it doesn’t ‘own’ the water of Cauvery.

Cauvery is one of South India’s largest rivers, and the source of much-needed irrigation water for farmers in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

However, Karnataka has an advantage in accessing the water since most, if not all, of the water that flows in the river is added to it during the river’s transit through Karnataka. Moreover, the origin of the river — known as ‘Thala Cauvery’ or ‘Cauvery Head’ is also located inside Karnataka.

Using its superior access and its status as the upper riparian state, Karnataka often refuses to release the 419 billion cubic feet of water that had been apportioned as Tamil Nadu’s share, putting Tamil farmers downstream high and dry.

As part of its judgment on the long-running dispute, the Supreme Court today reapportioned the waters, reducing Tamil Nadu’s share to 404 billion cubic feet and that of Karnataka to 270 bcf.

The order has largely been welcomed by Karnataka, whose capital Bangalore depends on Cauvery water to supplement its dwindling fresh water supply.

Hasan said it was welcome that the Supreme Court told Karnataka that it does not own the water that is flowing in the river. The statement is seen as a clear rebuke to Karnataka for refusing to release water in proportion to the sharing formula during times of scarcity.

“SC has said that water is not owned by any state. That is a consoling fact,” Hasan said.