Two days ago, a journalist asked me if the next World War will be over water. That question was triggered by the recent violence in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supposedly over Cauvery’s waters. There is no doubt that water conflicts are set to increase and intensify. But it would be wrong to suggest that the hooligans that engaged in loot and arson on either side of the border were actually soldiers in any World War. I think they had no agenda beyond their love of violence and the sound of breaking glass.

That is not to say that there is no conflict over Cauvery’s waters. The conflict is real, and has been since the princely Mysore state began seeking a role in determining how Cauvery’s waters were to be shared. If anything, the conflict is only likely to worsen. This instance of violence may have brought out only the hooligans in our midst; the conflicts to come are likely to bring out the hooligan in each one of us.

The possibilities of a de-escalation of conflicts over Cauvery’s water are remote given that two principal stakeholders – the River Cauvery and future generations – are not represented in all the negotiations in the tribunal and the Supreme Court. What is being referred to as a water-sharing formula is little more than a loot-sharing formula for divvying up the booty. Read more