River disputes in India

Water sharing disputes across the country (and even beyond) are only going to escalate with increasing demands, and also with increasing pollution & losses reducing the available water. Climate change is likely to worsen the situation as monsoon patterns change, water demands going up with increasing temperatures, glaciers melt and sea levels rise. 

Provisions related to Water Disputes

The Inter-State river water disputes are governed by the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. If a State Government makes a request regarding any water dispute and the Central Government is of opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, then a Water   Disputes Tribunal is constituted for the adjudication of the water dispute.

In accordance with the said Act, the Central Government is required to refer a dispute to a Tribunal after it is satisfied that the dispute cannot be settled through negotiations.

Recent Amendments Proposed

The Centre has decided to set up a single, permanent Tribunal to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes subsuming existing tribunals, a step which is aimed at resolving grievances of states in a speedy manner.

Besides the Tribunal, the government has also proposed to float some benches by amending the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 to look into disputes as and when required. Unlike the Tribunal, the benches will cease to exist once the disputes are resolved.

Along with the Tribunal, the amendment proposes to set up Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC). The DRC, comprising experts and policy-makers, is proposed to handle disputes prior to the Tribunal.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 proposes to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust. 

The Bill also provides for the appointment of Assessors to provide technical support to the tribunal. They shall be appointed from amongst experts serving in the Central Water engineering Service not below the rank of Chief Engineer. The total time period for adjudication of dispute has been fixed at maximum of four and half years. The decision of the Tribunal shall be final and binding with no requirement of publication in the official Gazette.