Most rivers of India are plagued with interstate disputes. Nine out of the 12 major rivers in India are interstate rivers. 85% percent of the Indian land mass lies within its major and medium inter-state rivers.
During last year two specific disputes has been in news.
Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal Issue:
- Supreme Court has directed the Punjab government to maintain status quo on land marked for the construction of SYL canal.
- However, going against the SC directive, Punjab assembly passed the Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill 2016, which seeks to return land acquired for the canal’s construction to the original owners free of cost.
Cauvery River Dispute:
The Supreme Court recently directed the Karnataka government to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu to ameliorate the plight of farmers. This created widespread disorder in Karnataka resulting in curfew being imposed in parts of Bengaluru.
- All rivers which flow across international and inter-state boundaries are a source of potential conflict.
- In India there are many inter-State rivers. The regulation and development of the waters of these rivers and river valleys continues to be a source of inter-State friction.
- Also After independence, demand for water had been increasing at an accelerated rate due to rapid growth of population, agricultural development, urbanization, industrialization, etc. These developments have led to several inter-state disputes about sharing of water of these rivers.
Article 262(1) of the Constitution lays down that “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”g. Parliament has enacted the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
- Inter-State Council (ISC) is a is a constitutional body with the mandate of enquiring into and advising upon disputes arising between the various states of India, to investigate subjects of common interest amongst the states, and to make recommendations upon such subjects for the better coordination of policy and action. It can play a useful role in facilitating dialogue and discussion towards resolving conflicts.
- Structural Changes: The Tribunal should be a multidisciplinary body, presided over by a Judge. It should follow a more participatory and conciliatory approach.
- Arbitration and negotiation methods: There is a need to look at arbitration and negotiation as methods of conflict resolution. One institutional arrangement that can be used is the River Basin Organization (RBO). RBOs can be set up under the River Boards Act of 1956 (RBA), legislated under article 56 of the Union list. These are empowered to regulate and develop inter-state rivers and their basins.
- Moving towards mediation: Mediation is a flexible and informal process and draws upon the multidisciplinary perspectives of the mediators. In the South Asian context, the World Bank played the role of mediator between India and Pakistan, which resulted in a successful resolution of the conflicts surrounding the rivers of the Indus basin
- Supply Side Management: Many times such issues arise as a result of a focus on demand-side management (managing the demand requirements). Many scholars have argued that supply-side management (augmenting the water supply) might be one way of dealing with such issues.
- Declaration of Rivers as National Property: One of the measures could be to declare all the major rivers as national property, and national schemes under Central assistance should be launched for the development of total command area of the concerned states. Establishment of separate corporations on the pattern of the Damodar Valley Corporation may be immensely useful in this direction.