RIVER DISPUTES BETWEEN STATES IN INDIA
While some natural resources such as sunlight and air are relatively abundant in the environment, others such as water, particularly freshwater are very limited in supply. This scarcity of water, has led to a phenomena of water conflicts that are essentially related to tensions between different states, countries or groups regarding access and usage of water.
The situation is equally grave in India where in several states have been involved in disputes with regards to sharing of river water as all major rivers of the country are interstate rivers and their water is shared by more than 2 states. For example, the sharing of waters of the Cauvery River has been a major bone of contention between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Other interstate river water disputes include Tungabhadra water dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka; Narmada water dispute between Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan; Aliyar and Bhivani river water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala among many others. The primary reason behind most of these disputes can be recognised as excessive usage of water due to rapid increase in population, agricultural development, urbanisation, industrialisation etc.
Keeping this in mind, the Interstate River Water Disputes Act was enacted by the Parliament of India under Article 262 of the Indian Constitution which empowers Central Government to deal with matters relating to conflict surrounding interstate rivers between regional/state governments. IRWDA deals with both Actions of a downstream state affecting interests of an upstream state and Actions of an upstream state affecting interests of a downstream state. The act further provides for a dispute resolution process between the 2 involved states by creation of a Tribunal.
However, it has been argued that Indian water dispute settlement mechanisms are ambiguous and opaque. Even after an amendment in 2002, the IRDWA has been ineffective in resolving water disputes between different states. Moreover, entanglement of interstate water disputes with more general centre state conflicts and political issues has led to several problems. It is therefore the need of the hour to make necessary amendments in the existing act so as to make it more effective.
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