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Inter-State Water Dispute Tribunal

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Last updated date: 12th Jul 2024
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Introduction to Inter-State Water Disputes

Inter-State water disputes are a continuing problem to federal water governance in India. They tend to become prolonged water disputes between states that share river basins because they are rooted in historical-geographical, constitutional, and institutional ambiguities. In India, the powers of the legislation dealing with water are divided between the Centre and the states to have maximum utilization while balancing the interests of the states. 


There are provisions in the Constitution (Schedule 7 of the Constitution) that distribute the power between the use of water within a state and the purpose of regulating interstate waters. It gives authority to the Central government to exercise the laws and mechanisms for managing interstate rivers while the states retain autonomy regarding water utilization.


Water Disputes in India

There are 25 major river basins in India. Most rivers flowing across states’ river basins of India are shared resources, a coordinated approach between the states. This issue of inter-state water disputes in India is one of the most serious problems today in India. The recent examples of such disputes are the cases of the Cauvery Water Dispute and the Satluj Yamuna Link Canal. 


Several Inter-State Water Disputes Tribunals have been established so far, but they are facing their own issues. There are conflicts over control of river water and the possession have continued since the formation of the Indian republic, with a long duration of time in resolution due to some factors such as political, historical, and institutional.


List of Interstate Water Dispute Tribunal 

The list of inter-state water dispute tribunals is given below along with the concerned states and their current status.


S.No

Name of Tribunal

States Concerned

Current Status

Year of

Constitution

1

Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal

Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa

In July 1980, a report and decision were given.

1969

2

Krishna Water

Disputes Tribunal – I

Maharashtra,

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,


In May 1976, a report and decision were given.

1969

3

Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal

Maharashtra

, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat

December 1979, a report and decision were given. For the implementation of the decision, Narmada Control Authority (NCA) was constituted.

1969

4

Ravi & Beas

Water Tribunal


Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan

In April 1987, a report and decision were given. The upcoming report is pending.


1986

5

Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal

Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry

On 5 February 2007, a report and Decision were given. Supreme Court made changes in the decision on 16 February 2018. For the modification of the decision, the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee and Cauvery Water Management Authority were constituted.

1990

6

Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal -II

Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana

Report and decision have given on 30 December 2010. SLPs filed pending in the Court. After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the term of the Tribunal has been extended. 

2004

7

Vansadhara Water Disputes

Tribunal


Andhra Pradesh, Odisha

Report and decision submitted on 13 September 2017. Further Report is pending.

2010

8

Mahadayi Water Disputes

Tribunal


Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra

Report and decision submitted on 14 August 2018. Further Report is pending.

2010

9

Mahanadi Water

Disputes Tribunal


Chhattisgarh, Odisha

Report and decision are awaited under adjudication by the Tribunal. 

2018


Process of Interstate River Water Disputes Resolution

The resolution of water disputes is performed by the Interstate Water Dispute Act 1956. This Act states that if a State Government makes a request related to any water conflict and the Union Government is of opinion that the settlement of the water conflict is not resolved by mutual discussion, then a Water Disputes Tribunal is constituted for the settlement of the water dispute. This act was amended to include the major recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission in 2002. The amendments make it compulsory for a one-year time frame to set up the water disputes tribunal and also a 3-year time frame to give a decision.


Issues Related to Inter-State River Disputes Tribunals

Some of the issues related to inter-state river dispute tribunals are given below.

  • The main issue is the delayed and prolonged proceedings in dispute adjudication. For example, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, the Tribunal gave a decision in 2007 while it was constituted in 1990.

  • Under Article 136 (Special Leave Petition), the States or individuals can approach the Supreme Court, although the award given by the Tribunals is final and beyond the jurisdiction of the Courts. 

  • The composition of the Tribunal consists of persons only from the judiciary means it is not multidisciplinary. Therefore it is similar to the Supreme Court Bench.

  • It is difficult to even set up a baseline for adjudication because of the lack of availability of authoritative water data.

  • There is too much discretion at too many stages of the process because of the complex policies of federal colonial legacy, and procedural complexities involving multiple stakeholders across governments and agencies of India. 

  • The Inter-State River Water Disputes Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced by the Centre to get the solution of the issues and to provide speed to the whole process of interstate water dispute resolution. 


Did You Know?

There are a total of 3 tribunal awards given till now which are notified in the gazette by the Government of India. These disputes are related to Krishna (tribunal 1), Godavari, and Narmada rivers. These tribunal awards cannot be altered by the new tribunals as these were issued before the year 2002.


Conclusion

Rivers are the ultimate source of water. A sound solution must be found in order to deal with the water disputes in India. Tribunals are considering the aspects both between the Centre and states as well as amongst the states but mutual problems have often come in the process of political negotiations such as the case of states governed by parties opposed to the national ruling party. The Union Government should take necessary steps to resolve the issues related to the tribunals.

FAQs on Inter-State Water Dispute Tribunal

1. What is the Inter-State Water Dispute Act 1956?

Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956 is responsible for all the adjudication of water disputes in India. In the year 2002, the act was amended to include recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission. The amendments are: Within the year of getting the request the Tribunal has to be constituted. It is mandatory to give the award within 3 years. However, in certain situations additional two more years can be given. Hence in a maximum of five years, the Tribunal must give the award. The concerned parties may seek clarification within 3 months of the award as the awards of the tribunal are not immediately implemented and. Tribunal Awards will is considered of having the similar power as the order of the Supreme Court. The verdict of the tribunal is final and beyond the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

2. Who decides the Inter-State River water disputes in India?

An Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal is constituted by the Central Government for giving a verdict on the matter of water disputes. It is mandatory to publish the decision taken by the central government in the official gazette. This decision is considered as the same force as that of an order of the Supreme Court.  In addition, the decision of the Bench of the Tribunal will be final and binding on the parties involved in the dispute.  The central government has the right to make a scheme in order to provide an effective decision of the Tribunal. 

3. What are the Constitutional provisions related to the Inter-State Water Dispute?

Article 262 of the Indian Constitution deals with the Inter state water disputes. The explanation of the article as per the Constitution of India is given below:

  • Article 262: Adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter State rivers or river valleys

  • Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter State river or river valley

  • Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause (1) Coordination between States.