What's New :
ITS 2025: Integrated Test Series & Mentorship Program for Prelims and Mains. Get Details

Karnataka objects to violation of water tribunal awards

Published: 22nd Nov, 2021


Karnataka’s State Government asserted the state's rights on inter-state rivers such as Cauvery, river linking initiatives, and related projects during the Southern Zonal Council meet in Tirupati.


  • Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, two of India’s most industrious states, have fought for decades over the Cauvery river.
  • It is a highly emotional and sensitive subject to people on both sides of the border.

Points made by Karnataka

  • Karnataka should get its rightful share in Cauvery, Krishna, and Pennar river.
  • By citing the Polavarm project, a feature of which is the interlinking of Godavari and Krishna rivers, Karnataka said its 'rightful share' should be ensured through avenues like substitution as river Krishna flows to a large extent in Karnataka and similarly, Cauvery originated and flowed across the state.
  • It also demanded that no statutory clearances be given to large-scale permanent projects, planned for utilizing surplus waters in violations of Water Tribunal Awards.


Why water resources are becoming major moot points?

Today, water resources are becoming one of the major moot points among several areas, communities, and countries. The reasons behind this are:

  • physical and economic water scarcity
  • unsustainable management and development practices related to water use
  • global food trade
  • damage caused to the ecology from human behavior (mining activities, industrial activities)

Thus, water disputes take place and its governance comes on the scene.

What is the need for the interlinking of rivers?

  • Northern and eastern India frequently experience floods, while western and southern India has droughts and ILR could rectify that to an extent.
  • Flood & drought management: Problems related to flood control, irrigation, limiting droughts, and boosting farm output—can be sorted out by linking the country’s rivers.
    • Around 35 per cent of the country, which receives an annual rainfall of 750mm-1125 mm, is drought-prone
    • About 33 per cent, which gets an annual rainfall of less than 750mm are chronically drought-prone.
  • Effective utilization of surface water: ILR will increase India’s utilizable surface water by 25 percent. Currently, only a quarter of the Brahmputra’s renewable water resources are utilizable within the basin.
  • Over 70 percent of India’s water is available to only 36 percent of its land area.
  • By 2030, India’s water supply is expected to meet only half of its demand.

What are the reasons for Interstate Disputes over Sharing of River Water?

  • Ill Distribution of Resources (water; minerals etc.): It increases the dependency of one state on the other for their requirements which leads to conflict between two states.
  • Regional Economic Disparity: Such economic disparity can be observed in India, thus, sharing their resources with other states sometimes leads to a conflict of interest.  
    • For example states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka contribute around 70% of the country’s GDP.
  • Demographic Disparity: It leads to disparity in population demands.

Constitutional provisions related to ‘Water’

  • In the Indian Constitution, water is a ‘State subject’ as per entry 17 of the State List. Thus states are empowered to enact legislation on water.
    • Entry 17 of the State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage, and water power.

Centre’s say in Water

  • Entry 56 of the Union List gives power to the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.
  • Inter-state disputes require the involvement of the Union government for a federal solution at two levels:
    • between the states involved
    • between the Centre and the states

Inter-State Water Disputes

  • Article 262 in the constitution empowers the President to establish Inter-State water Disputes Tribunal being and also states.
  • Under this provision an Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956, and River Boards Act, 1956 was created.

Jurisdiction of SC

  • Article 262 (1) bars the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • But matters are still being taken thereon legal, jurisdictional, environmental, and constitutional issues.

Related Legislations:

  • River Board Act, 1956:
  • The regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys were to be entrusted to various River Boards when this Act was adopted in 1956. 
  • The River Boards were designed to advise the central government on development opportunities, coordinate activities, and resolve disputes. 
  • The objective of the Board is to advise on the inter-state basin to prepare development schemes and to prevent the emergence of conflicts.
  • The Indian government has been unable to constitute a River Board since the Act was enacted, almost sixty years ago.
  • Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956:
  • The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an act under Article 262 of the Constitution.
  • It aims to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control, and distribution of an interstate river or river valley.
  • IRWD Act applies only to interstate rivers/river valleys.
  • Under the Act, a state government may request the central government to refer an inter-state river dispute to a Tribunal for adjudication.
  • Creation of Tribunal:
  • The Tribunal must give its decision within three years, which may be extended by two years. 
  • Under the Act, if the matter is again referred to the Tribunal by a state for further consideration, the Tribunal must submit its report to the central government within one year. 
  • This decision has the same force as that of an order of the Supreme Court. 
  • Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019
  • The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in July 2019.
  • It amends the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956. 
  • The Bill provides the following:
    • Disputes Resolution Committee:When a state puts in a request regarding any water dispute, the central government will set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), to resolve the dispute amicably. 
    • Tribunal: The central government will set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for the adjudication of water disputes.   

Water Disputes Tribunals


States Concerned

Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa

Krishna Water
Disputes Tribunal – I

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka,

Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal

Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra

Ravi & Beas
Water Tribunal

Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan

Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal

Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry

Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal -II

Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana

Vansadhara Water Disputes

Andhra Pradesh, Odisha

Mahadayi Water Disputes

Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra

Mahanadi Water
Disputes Tribunal

Chhattisgarh, Odisha

What are the challenges in interstate water disputes?

Interstate (River) Water Disputes (ISWDs) are a continuing challenge to federal water governance in India. Major issues are:

  • Increasing water scarcity
  • Rapid rise in urban and rural demands for freshwater
  • Constitutional, historico-geographical, and institutional ambiguities
  • Contentious political federalism
  • Conflicting perceptions of property rights
  • Flawed economic instruments for food security
  • Lack of an integrated ecosystems approach
  • Prevalence of reductionist hydrology for water resource development

Additional Facts

  • Five Zonal Councils were set up in 1957 under Section 15-22 of the States Re-organization Act, 1956.
  • The home minister is the chairman of each of these five Zonal Councils and the chief minister of the host state (to be chosen by rotation every year) is the vice-chairman.
  • Two more ministers from each state are nominated as members by the governor.
  • The Zonal Councils provide a forum for resolving disputes and irritants between Centre and states and among the states in the zone.
  • Range of issues: The Councils discuss a broad range of issues which include boundary-related disputes, security, infrastructure-related matters like road, transport, industries, water, and power, matters about forests and environment, housing, education, food security, tourism, and transport.

What measures are required?

  • More focus on mediating the issue: Mediation is a flexible and informal process and draws upon the multidisciplinary perspectives of the mediators. Efforts should be made to resolve the dispute between states using mediation.
  • Arbitration and negotiation: There is a need to look at arbitration and negotiation as methods of conflict resolution.
  • More participatory approach: The Tribunal should be a multidisciplinary body, presided over by a Judge. It should follow a more participatory and conciliatory approach.
  • Avoidance of political opportunism: Disputes must be resolved by dialogue and talks and political opportunism must be avoided.
  • Effective role of concerned councils: The issue can be resolved by discussing the dispute in Inter-State Council. Inter-State Council can play a useful role in facilitating dialogue and discussion towards resolving conflicts.


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.  However, effective coordination and participatory approach can reduce this friction among states and lead to a healthy functioning for the welfare of all.

Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now