Daily Answer Writing for UPSC –17th August 2023

Question: Critically assess the challenges posed by climate change and erratic rainfall patterns in the context of the Cauvery river water sharing dispute. (150 words)

The Cauvery water dispute involves conflicting claims over the sharing of water from the Cauvery River among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry. It revolves around competing water needs for irrigation, industry, and domestic use, complicated by varying rainfall patterns and historical agreements, leading to tensions and legal battles.The genesis of this conflict rests in two agreements in 1892 and 1924 between the Madras Presidency and Kingdom of Mysore.The challenges posed by climate change and erratic rainfall patterns significantly impact the Cauvery river water sharing dispute, exacerbating an already complex situation.

  • Water Scarcity and Variability: Climate change leads to increased variability in rainfall patterns, resulting in prolonged periods of droughts and reduced water availability in the Cauvery basin. This scarcity further heightens the competition for water resources among the states, exacerbating conflicts over water-sharing arrangements.
  • Unpredictable Rainfall: Erratic rainfall patterns disrupt the historical patterns of water inflow into the Cauvery river system. Such unpredictability makes it challenging to plan water allocations and releases between the states. This uncertainty can lead to disputes over deviations from agreed-upon sharing norms.
  • Reduced Water Flow: Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns can lead to reduced glacier melt and snowfall in the catchment areas of the Cauvery, impacting the overall water flow. This reduction in water flow can affect the availability of water for all stakeholders, intensifying the disputes.
  • Impact on Agriculture: Agriculture is a major consumer of water from the Cauvery river. Climate change-induced shifts in rainfall patterns can adversely affect crop yields and water requirements. This puts pressure on states to secure their water allocations to sustain their agricultural activities, leading to disputes.
  • Economic and Social Impacts: Climate change can disrupt the livelihoods of people dependent on the Cauvery basin, affecting industries, fisheries, and other economic activities. This adds to the socio-economic pressures and intensifies the demand for water resources.
  • Adaptation Challenges: Climate change adaptation strategies require coordinated efforts among the riparian states. Adapting to changing water availability and designing resilient water management systems are complex tasks that need collaboration and long-term planning.
  • Legal and Institutional Challenges: Existing water-sharing agreements and legal mechanisms might not adequately address the challenges posed by climate change. Adapting legal frameworks to address changing circumstances and uncertainties can be difficult and time-consuming.
  • Resource Conflicts: As water resources become scarcer, conflicts may escalate, and states could resort to unilateral actions such as constructing dams or reservoirs without consulting other stakeholders. Such actions can escalate tensions and disrupt existing agreements.
  • Interstate Relations: Climate change impacts can strain interstate relations as states struggle to secure their water resources. The inability to effectively manage these challenges can lead to a breakdown in communication and cooperation among the states.

To address these challenges, a comprehensive approach is needed that includes adaptive water management strategies, improved data-sharing mechanisms, joint efforts in climate change adaptation, and updated legal frameworks that account for changing climatic conditions. Collaborative decision-making, communication, and cooperation among the riparian states are essential to ensure equitable water allocation and mitigate the potential conflicts arising from climate change impacts on the Cauvery river basin.

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