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Day 8 – Q 4.Discuss the constitutional provisions that delve upon interstate river water disputes. Why have river water disputes been lingering for such long periods? Can there be a remedy? Suggest.

4. Discuss the constitutional provisions that delve upon interstate river water disputes. Why have river water disputes been lingering for such long periods? Can there be a remedy? Suggest. 

अंतरराज्यीय नदी जल विवादों से सम्बंधित संवैधानिक प्रावधानों पर चर्चा करें। नदी जल विवाद इतने लंबे समय से क्यों चल रहे हैं? क्या कोई उपाय हो सकता है? सुझाव दें।


The Inter-State River Water Disputes are one of the most contiguous issues in the Indian federalism today. In extreme cases, it hampers the relationship between the different states and ultimate sufferers are the common citizen in general and farmers in particular. 


Constitutional provisions for River Water Dispute:

  • Water is in the State List. It is Entry 17 of the list and hence, states can legislate with respect to rivers.
  • Entry 56 of the Union List, however, gives the Central government the power to regulate and develop inter-state rivers and river valleys.
  • Article 262 also states that the Parliament may 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.

As per Article 262, the Parliament has enacted the following:

  • River Board Act, 1956
  • Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956: Under this act, the government may form a tribunal 

Reasons for lingering of water disputes:

  • Extraordinary delays in constituting the tribunal: A lengthy and time-consuming process, where states are asked for mutual negotiations first and then the establishment of Water Disputes tribunal if negotiations fail.

Ex: Godavari water dispute, Cauvery Water Dispute

  • Due to delay in constituting the tribunal, state governments continued to invest resources in the construction and modification of dams, thus strengthening their claims
  • Delay in Reports and Decisions given by the Tribunal. For instance, Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • Lack of availability of the data also causes a delay due to the survey and collection of data each time the dispute arises.
  • Sub-judice Matters: Either States approach Supreme Court under Article 136 (Special Leave Petition) or private persons approach Supreme Court under Article 32 linking issue with the violation of Article 21 (Right to Life).

Ex: Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal, Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

  • Appointment of the Members of the Tribunal. The composition of the tribunal is not multidisciplinary and it consists of persons only from the judiciary.

Ex:  Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal.

  • Delays in execution and implementation.
  • Issues arising out of state reorganization also cause a delay as re-calculation of water distribution is required.

Ex: The state of Telangana and Godavari water.

  • Differences arose over compensation and rehabilitation due to the construction of canal and power projects also causes the delay.
  • Delays in the settlement and execution of the resolutions have been problems with the tribunal method of dispute resolution.
  • There has been politicization of the dispute based on regional feeling and for vote bank politics.

Ex: Dispute between Tamilians and Kannadigas for Cauvery river water.

Way forward/ remedies:

  • Enactment of pending Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
  • Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC) should be set up for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably and in a time bound manner.
  • The decision of the bench of the tribunal should be final and binding and should have the same force as that of an order of the Supreme Court.
  • A single permanent tribunal should be set up.
  • Maintenance of data bank and information: A transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin and a single agency to maintain data bank and information system should be established.
  • The issues can be resolved by discussing the dispute in Inter-State Council.


Inter-state river water disputes hinder the cooperative federalism of India and provide parochial mindset making regional issues superior to national issues. We should realize that our nation is a family in which all states are its members. So disputes must be resolved by dialogue and talks and the political opportunism must be avoided.

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