Inter State River Water Disputes Act
Interstate River Water Disputes Act
The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an act of the Parliament under Article 262 of the Constitution of India. The reason this act came into existence was the brewing conflict between the states which were sharing the waters of the same river. As the states were reorganized on linguistic basis there was a big question mark regarding the use of river water by the newly formed states. This act gave the central government a major role in resolving such conflicts between State Governments.
The river water use/harnessing comes under state jurisdiction. However, the central government can make laws and regulations regarding interstate rivers when public interest is being harmed due to a dispute. When public interest is served, President may also decide to constitute an interstate council as per Article 263 to inquire on the dispute that has arisen between the states of India.
The main features of the act can be summarized as –
(a) A State Government which has a water dispute with another State Government may request the Central Government to refer the dispute to a tribunal for adjudication.
(b) If the Central Government is of opinion that the dispute cannot be settled by negotiation then it shall refer the dispute to a Tribunal.
(c) The Tribunal consists of a Chairman and two other members, nominated by the Chief Justice of India from among persons who, at the time of such nomination, are Judges of the Supreme Court. The composition of the tribunal has been laid down in the act itself.
(d)The Tribunal can appoint assessors to advise it in the proceedings.
(e) Once the central government refers a dispute to the Tribunal, it investigates it and makes a report embodying the decision. This decision made by the tribunal is binding and final.
(f) Not even the Supreme Court holds jurisdiction over the disputes referred to the tribunal.
(g) The Central Government may frame a scheme, providing for all matters necessary to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal.
What constitutes a water dispute?
- IRWD act can be applied only to Interstate rivers/river valleys
- The action of one state on an interstate river body must hamper the interests of one state or more than one state
The IRWD acts’ jurisdiction can be divided into two main violations which are as following –
- Downstream state encroaching upon the interests of an upstream state
- Upstream state encroaching upon the interests of a downstream state
The only way a downstream state can affect the interest of an upstream state is by building a dam near it boundary. The dam water will engulf a lot of territory of the upstream state and this will have a huge effect on the livelihood of the people of the upstream state which will come in the influence area of the dam. However, an upstream state can do many things which can potentially encroach upon the interests of the downstream state and their people. Below are some examples of how this can be done.
- Constructing reservoirs for storage of water and using them for purposes such as irrigation, drinking water, industrial, recreation, recharging of ground water, ground water use, enhanced evaporation losses, enhancing rain water use efficiency, obstructing non flood flows of the river, transferring water to outside the river basin, etc. This makes the downstream heavily dependent upon the upstream state for water. Concisely, this affects the quantity aspect of the water.
- The quality of the water that reaches a downstream state can also be altered by an upstream state. This can be done in several ways and is out of the scope of this article.
In many cases upstream states use water canals and pipelines to divert river water into have with deficient water supply and this becomes the reason for most of the disputes. Infrastructure for distribution of water comes under river water distribution and control category under IRWD Act. A dam failure in an upstream state can cause flash floods in the downstream states and may also cause dam failure in the downstream states causing mass destruction in the downstream state.
IRWD Act was amended in 2002. This amendment does not allow the altering of the verdicts given by the tribunal before 2002. Thus this amendment bars the tribunals to give any time period/validity for constituting a new tribunal. This is to keep a provision to resolve fresh water disputes which were not addressed by earlier tribunals/ agreements as and when they surface.
Major River disputes in India –
- Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
- The Krishna water dispute between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
- The Tungabhadra water dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
- The Aliyar and Bhivani river water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- The Godavari river water dispute between Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Karnataka.The Narmada water dispute between Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
- The Mahi river dispute between Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
- The Ravi and Beas river water dispute between Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi.
- The Satluj-Yamuna Link canal dispute between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
- The Yamuna river water dispute between Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
- The Karmanasa river water dispute between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- The Barak river water dispute between Assam and Manipur.
In a developing country such as ours, these issues need to be tackled swiftly and amicably to ensure speedy development because water is something that is vital not only for the growth of human beings but also for the growth of the economy as a whole.