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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK

World: South Asia

Karnataka holds up water release

Tamil Nadu depends on upstream Karanataka for Cauvery water

The southern Indian state of Karnataka has rejected a request for an immediate release of water from the Cauvery River to help drought-hit Tamil Nadu.

Officials said there were inadequate levels of water in the reservoirs after a shortfall of rain in the catchment areas.

[ image: Water Ministry Secretary Hassan:
Water Ministry Secretary Hassan: "The problem is how to save the crops"
The head of the Cauvery monitoring authority, Z Hassan, said the immediate problem was how to save the crops.

His committee - meeting in emergency session - recommended that Karnataka should release 3bn cubic feet of water by 30 September.

Karnataka's representatives at first agreed to release 20bn cubic feet in stages over the next couple of months, but later refused to release any for at least a fortnight.

Under an agreement reached earlier this year, the state should release about 200bn cubic feet of water to its neighbour every year.

[ image:  ]
The committee will submit its proposals to the prime minister, who is authorised to take a decision.

With the general election underway the water issue has acquired a new political significance with neither Karnataka nor Tamil Nadu budging from their stands.

Monsoon failed

Tamil Nadu officials say they were forced to call Friday's meeting when Karnataka refused to release any water despite drought conditions in large paddy areas after the monsoons failed.

The portioning of Cauvery water is one of the country's longest-running and most intractable regional disputes.

The Press Trust of India news agency says the low water levels in Tamil Nadu's dams are providing a rare opportunity for people to see old shrines which normally lie submerged.

Fisherman using coracles ferry visitors to see the relics.

The water level in one dam, which has a maximum height of 120 feet, is currently barely above 41 feet.

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Cauvery Water Dispute - case study by Inventory for Conflict and Environment

The Cauvery Water War - background briefing by University of California

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