India’s Karnataka state gears up for strike over water-sharing dispute

By Navamya Ganesh Acharya and VarunVyas Hebbalalu

BENGALURU,India (Reuters) – Farmers and trade unions in India’s southern Karnataka state have called for a day-long strike on Friday to protest against sharing water from a river with neighbouring Tamil Nadu state, in a drawn-out conflict that has flared up again in recent days.

Protests began this week in Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru against the allocation of water from the Cauvery river, with demonstrators opposing a court order to release 5,000 cusecs of river water to Tamil Nadu for 15 days this month. A cusec is one cubic foot or 28 cubic litres per second.

Fear of unrest had forced thousands of employees of multinationals such as Walmart and Alphabet’s Google to work from home in the technology hub Bengaluru on Sept. 26, a situation expected to be repeated on Friday.

Police appealed for calm as thousands of farmers and members of trade union members were expected to hold rallies and demand complete control over the Cauvery river at a time when the Karnataka government has declared a drought in some parts of the state.

The Tamil Nadu government says the river is a shared resource and it cannot be deprived of its share.

The Cauvery river originates in the Karnataka region of Talakaveri and flows through Tamil Nadu before entering the Bay of Bengal.

Farmers based in both states told Reuters they will not be able to harvest crops if they don’t get an adequate water supply as rainfall has been patchy this year.

Agrarian experts said public anger and litigation over water allotment can be avoided with fixed distress-sharing norms and a fresh audit of the natural resource.

(Additional reporting Praveen Paramasivam in Chennai, Writing by Rupam Jain, Editing by Hugh Lawson)