Inter-State River Water Disputes in India

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Recently the Ministry of Water Resources River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation have issued a notification constituting Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal. The Tribunal will have its headquarters of Delhi.

Inter-State River Water Disputes in India

The Inter State River Water Disputes are one of the most contiguous issues in the Indian Federalism.       The recent cases of the Mahanadi Water Dispute and Cauvery Water Dispute cases are example.

  • Water in the constitution of India

Let us first be clear about the present constitutional position in relation to water. The general impression is that in India water is a state subject but the position is not quite so simple. The primary entry in the constitution relating water is indeed entry 17 in the state list, but it is explicitly made subject to the provisions of entry 56 in the Union List which enables the Union to deal with inter-state rivers if Parliament legislates for the purpose.

  • Article 262 of Indian Constitution

Constituent Assembly anticipated the emergence of water disputes in future. A specific provision of Article 262 is mentioned in the constitution itself due to the sensitivity of such disputes.

Parliament has constitutes laws according to Article 262

  1. River Board Act, 1956

The purpose of this Act was to enable the Union Government to create Boards for Inter-state Rivers and river valleys in consultation with State Governments. The objective of Boards is to advise on the inter-state basin to prepare development scheme and to prevent the emergence of conflicts.

Till date there is no river board as per above Act has been constitute.

  1. Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956

If a particular state or states approach to Union for the constitution of the tribunal then:

  1. Union Government should try to resolve the matter by consultation among the aggrieved states.
  2. In case, if it does not work, then it may constitute the tribunal

Composition: Tribunal is constituted by the Chief Justice of India and it consists of the sitting judge of Supreme Court and the other two judges who can be from Supreme Court or High Court.

Inter-State Water disputes under the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act (ISRWD), 1956:

  Rivers Year States
i Krishna 1968 Maharashtra

Andhra Pradesh

Karnataka

ii Godavari 1969 Maharashtra

Andhra Pradesh

Karnataka

Madhya Pradesh

Odisha

iii Narmada 1969 Rajasthan

Madhya Pradesh

Gujarat

Maharashtra

iv Cauvery 1990 Kerala

Karnataka

Tamil Nadu

Pondicherry

v Krishna 2004 Karnataka

Andhra Pradesh

Maharashtra

vi Mandovi/Mahadayi 2010 Goa

Karnataka

Maharashtra

vii Vansadhara 2010 Andhra Pradesh

Odisha

viii Mahanadi 2018 (Proposed) Chhattisgarh

Odisha

 Constitutional Amendments regarding ISRWD Act, 1956:

There have been extraordinary delays in constituting the tribunal.

E.g. In the case of Godavari Water Dispute the request was made in 1962. The tribunal was constituted in 1968 & the award (just) was given in 1979. Similarly, in Cauvery Water Dispute Tamil Nadu Government requested to constitute the tribunal in 1970 & the tribunal was constituted in 1990.

Amendments to the ISRWD Act in 2002

  • In 2002 an amendment was made in the Act by which the tribunal has to be constituted within a year of getting the request.
  • It has also been mandated that the tribunal should give the just within 3 years. In certain situations two more years can be given. Thus, maximum time period was 5 years within which the tribunal should give the award.
  • Tribunal award is not immediately implemented concerned parties may seek clarification within 3 months of the award.
  • Inter-State Water Dispute Bill 2017
  • The government has introduced this bill in the present session of the LokSabha seeking to speed up the Inter-State Water Dispute resolution.
  • The centre is to set up Dispute Resolution Committee having experts from different fields in case of water disputes. The committee will try to resolve the dispute within 1 year. The Tribunal will be approached only when thus committee finds to settle the dispute.
  • According to this Bill, a Single Permanent Tribunal is to be set up which have multiple benches.
  • The Bill calls for the transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin and a single agency to maintain data bank & information system.

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