- The demand of water has been soaring with increasing population and their needs.
- This has given rise to many inter-state river disputes over sharing of river water between multiple states .
- Recently, the Cauvery River Water Dispute resurfaced over the question of distribution of water of the river.
- Increasing population–> thus, an increase in demand of water for agriculture, industrial, domestic purposes among others.
- One state may check/regulate/control the flow of river water to its advantage thus harming the needs of the other state. For eg. Karnataka may through gates/check dams regulate the water of Cauvery river harming Tamil Nadu.
- River Water harnessing falls under the State list of Schedule 7(related to the distribution of powers between centre and state)—> leads to assertiveness over ownership of river water.
- Political reasons: Populism to woo farmers and middle class.
union government can make laws on regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys à in the public interest (entry 56 of union list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution)
- Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers(only if it is in public interest) that arise among the state/regional governments.
Acts passed by the Parliament taking cue out of this:
- Inter-State River Water Disputes (IRWD)Act, 1956à resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valleys
- River Boards Act, 1956à for the regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys
Tribunals: section 4 of IRWD Act provides dispute resolution process in the form of Tribunal(a kind of court for adjudicating specific purposes)
Why it still persists?:
- Non-compliance to the awards of tribunals.
- Present mechanisms are not leveraged upon well.
- Populism and demagogy overshadows the intellectual efforts.
Issues and Concerns:
- Law and order issues.
- Economic losses due to halt of business.
- Inter-state rivalry which disrupts the federal spirit and unity in diversity.
- Virtually suspends the Fundamental rights, like, right to move freely throughout the country(Article 19(1)(d)).
- Regionalism , that is, state before nation, rises.
- Burden on judiciary (despite presence of tribunals).
- Agricultural losses to the state which depends on the other state for river water release. This may in turn has grave impacts on food security and health.
- Ambitious projects of the government like Inter-linking of rivers may suffer a setback .
- Consensus building through existing mechanisms like Zonal councils*, Inter-state councils* and NITI Aayog *.
- Including experts like geologists, irrigation experts erc. to find a practical and technical solution.
- Negotiations between all the stakeholders including farmers, leaders among others.
*Zonal Councils:Statutory body(setup through an act) to advise on matters of common interest.
*Inter-state Councils: Constitutional body(Article 263) to resolve common problems and disputes among the states.
*NITI Aayog: an executive body which replaced the Planning Commission to inculcate a spirit of “co-operative federalism” in Indian polity.
Following is the Mindmap of the above topic. This helps you to recollect the whole topic at a glance.