Inter-states River Water Disputes of India

Inter-states Water Disputes of India

Freshwater is the most indispensable part of life and rivers act as the lifelines of culture. In India, where more than 60% of the population has limited access to freshwater resources, disputes between states are bound to happen and will remain a bone of contention. The rising population of the country will be compounding to the present crisis.

Indian River Water Disputes & States Involved

River DisputesStates
Godavari Water DisputeMaharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,
Madhya Pradesh &Odisha
Kaveri Water DisputePondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka & Kerala
Krishna Water DisputeAndhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra & Telangana
Water Dispute
Goa, Karnataka & Maharashtra
Mahanadi Water DisputesChhattisgarh & Odisha
Narmada Water DisputesRajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat & Maharashtra
Periyar Water DisputesKerala & Tamil Nadu
Ravi & Beas Water DisputesPunjab, Haryana & Rajasthan
Vansadhara Water DisputesAndhra Pradesh & Odisha

Water and Indian Constitution

Let's see how the Indian Constitution deals with the water issue. 

  • Water is listed as  Entry 17 under List II (State List) of Seventh Schedule in the Indian Constitution.
  • Entry 17 is under the provision of Entry 56 under List I (Union List) of Seventh Schedule which empowers the Central Govt. to regulate and develop the interstate rivers to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient within the public interest.
  • Article 262 of the Constitution in turn grants the Parliament the right to settle disputes relating to Entry 56 on the interstate water issues without the interference of any court of law including the Supreme Court.

 Interstate River Water Disputes Resolution

Under Article 262, Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956 and the River Boards Act of 1956 was formulated.

  1. River Boards Act of 1956

      Under this Act, the Central Govt. can set up a river board upon the request of a state govt. via an official gazette notification. The river board thus formed can develop and regulate the interstate rivers and river valleys.

  2. Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956 

      If a situation arises where a state govt. raises any water dispute with its neighboring state and the Central Govt. is unable to find a resolution through negotiations, a water tribunal can be instituted. It is also done after receiving an official gazette notification from the state govt.

    An amendment was made to this act to incorporate the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission in 2002. According to this, the water dispute tribunal should be set up within one year, and also the tribunal must make its decision within 3 years.

Even though the tribunals are over the jurisdiction of the Supreme court and other courts, the states can approach the Supreme Court under Article 136 (Special Leave Petition) under Article 32 linking issue with the violation of Article 21 (Right to Life).

Inter-State River Water Disputes Amendment Bill (2019)

The Inter-State River Water Disputes Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament in Lok Sabha on July 25, 2019, by Minister of Jal Shakti, Mr. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. 

According to which upon receiving a request on interstate river water dispute from any state, the Central Govt. will set up a Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC). The committee will be composed of a chairperson (central govt. nominee with a minimum of 15 years of experience within the relevant sector) and one member (joint-secretary level official) from each of the riparian states.

The DRC should settle the dispute amicably within one year (can be extended to six months) and submit its report back to the Central Govt. If the dispute remains unresolved, it will be forwarded to Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal. 

As for the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, it should be set up within 3 months once it receives the report from the DRC. The tribunal will have a chairperson, vice-chairperson, 3 judicial members, and 3 expert members, all appointed by the Central Govt. This tribunal can have multiple benches. 

The decision of the Tribunal should be made in 2 years (extendable by 1.5 years) and the central govt. can make a scheme depending on the tribunal's decision.

Under this Act, the Central Govt. will maintain a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin and can appoint or authorize an agency to maintain this data bank.

Active River Water Dispute Tribunals in India

TribunalYearStates Involved
Krishna Water Disputes
Tribunal II
2004Karnataka, Telangana,
Andhra Pradesh & Maharashtra
Mahanadi Water Disputes
2018Odisha & Chattisgarh
Mahadayi Water Disputes
2010Goa, Karnataka & Maharashtra
Ravi & Beas Water Tribunal1986Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan
Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal2010Andhra Pradesh & Odisha

Other major water disputes are as follows:
  • Babhali Barrage issues – Maharashtra & Andhra Pradesh.
  • Mulla Periyar Dam issue – Kerala & Tamil Nadu.
  • Sutlej-Yamuna link canal issues – Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan.
The 6-decades old Attappady Valley Irrigation Project disputes between Kerala & Tamil Nadu with the development and construction of a 450-meter dam across the Siruvani river recently had a closure.

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