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The Cauvery River dispute : hydrological politics in Indian federalism Gebert, Rita Ingrid

Abstract

India's Cauvery River dispute first appeared in the late 1880s when the Madras Presidency objected to the irrigation project plans of the upstream princely state of Mysore. This study investigates the modern incarnation of the Cauvery dispute which began in 1970 when Tamil Nadu's complaints against Karnataka's reservoir projects in the Cauvery Basin escalated into demands that the central government appoint a tribunal to adjudicate the dispute. The conflict has continued since then and as of 1983 no resolution is imminent. Two analytical approaches To river disputes and to Indian federalism are especially helpful in explaining the Cauvery dispute. The river dispute literatune is particularly useful in demonstrating why there is a conflict at all, why the states have presented the types of arguments they have, and what hydrologic factors make this river dispute difficult to solve. The central government in its role as mediator, however, will have the greatest effect on the interstate river dispute's outcome. This makes it important to understand India's prevailing system of centre-state political relations. The thesis outlines in considerable detail the technical aspects of the dispute and chronicles the negotiations that have gone on between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The main argument of the thesis is that the Indian central government has acted in the Cauvery and other river disputes according to its interpretation of the political costs and benefits involved in resolving the dispute. Meanwhile, the state governments, which are much more concerned with the hydrology and development of the Cauvery, have contradictory views of these political costs and benefits. It would appear that the dispute will be resolved when Karnataka has interrupted the Cauvery's flow enough to force Tamil Nadu to accept a compromise to be negotiated by the Government of India.

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