River length: 802 km
Basin area: 88,000 sq km
Population in basin: 73 million
States in basin: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
Major cities using water
Chennai (pop: 7 million), Bengaluru (pop: 8.4 million)
- Water depletion: 39%
- Dry season drought risk: Low to medium
- Monsoon flood risk: High
- Total tree cover loss: 87%
- Seasonal variability of water levels: Medium
Economic & Environmental Significance
- The very name “Cauvery” manifests its significance. “Cauvery” comes from Ka and viri, and means “one who brings abundance where she flows.”.
- The Cauvery delta is one of South India’s rice bowls and supports 4.4 million people.
- The Cauvery basin contributes 40% of the food grain in Tamil Nadu and 26% in Karnataka.
- Asia’s first hydroelectric dam was built across the Cauvery at Shivanasamudra. The dam provides electricity to Bengaluru.
In 2016, the Cauvery went dry at its source as rainfall fell by 40-70%. Ironically, Tamil Nadu had suffered some of its worst floods a few months earlier in 2015. Five hundred people lost their lives. Estimates of the damage ranged from INR 20,000-160,000 crores. And a year later in the summer of 2017, once again, Tamil Nadu faced drought – the worst in 140 years, while Karnataka stares at a 36% shortfall in food grain production.
The growing trend of alternating flood-drought cycles is becoming apparent in almost all major rivers in India.
Spiritual & Cultural Significance
The Cauvery’s origins are closely related to Agastyamuni, who is in many ways the source of the spiritual process in the whole of South India.
Many of South India’s sacred spaces are along the Cauvery’s banks. Thiruvanaikaval, the pancha bhuta sthala for water, is along its banks. The linga here is always partially immersed in water.
The Cauvery herself is described as a goddess. For the Kodavas, one of the indigenous people of the Western Ghats, Cauvery is the kula devata or family deity.
One of the oldest dams in the world, the Kallanai dam was built almost 2000 years ago on the Cauvery, by the Chola king Karikalan.
Poompuhar, a town near the place where Cauvery reaches the ocean, was one of the most important ports of the ancient world. Known as Cauverypoompattinam, traders set sail from here to Rome, Greece, China and the Far East.
- Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sriram80/521578354/