Geographically, all of India's major rivers have an interstate flow. A variety of multipurpose river valley projects have been developed over time as a result of the growth of the river, with the cooperation of numerous riparian governments in order to maximise benefits. Since Independence, unfortunately, the sharing of river waters has turned into a constant subject of contention between the States, varying by each other as the case may be. In India, inter-state water disputes are a recurring issue. Regardless of any agreements between the States, each State desires to utilise the river waters to the fullest. Interstate conflicts are inevitably the result, and they can even be never-ending. In this situation, the Central Government must take the lead in addressing the conflicts between the States over their respective water rights. Additionally, the Central Government has a significant duty in approving technically the irrigation schemes put up by the States.
Inaction on the part of states
The Krishna Basin is a good illustration of the lack of necessary interstate cooperation. In the Indian peninsular region, there have been other such disputes that have lingered for years with little sign of resolution. The four states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh have been at odds over the subject of their riparian rights for many years, despite the submission of many policy papers and the formation of many committees.
In order to identify the gaps in the current situation that prevent a satisfactory resolution and to analyse the alternatives, it is important to look at the framework and structure surrounding water disputes at the inter-state level as well as their resolution in the context of the Krishna water dispute. The author also discusses the concerns that might come from a lack of coordination between the federal government and the states, as well as the reasons for inaction and numerous solutions that have been proposed to improve collaboration between the states and the union. Globally, several nations are making an effort to focus on sustainable development by establishing goals to improve the state of the globe. As an illustration, Jordan's Prime Minister Hani Mulki stated that "Water security is increasingly being addressed by many countries as part of their national security strategy approaches and is a crucial aspect for collaboration rather than conflict beginning.
Reasons for water dispute
The concerns connected to the sharing of waters of an interstate river or stream by the several states are included in the issues and challenges that the states face regarding interstate river water (s). If we try to group them, they fall into the following categories:
issues with the distribution of profits from a project that is jointly built by multiple states and the sharing of construction costs;
issues including the need to compensate a state who may have suffered harm as a result of another state's implementation of a project;
issues resulting from disagreements over how to interpret agreements, complaints about overuse or underuse of water by a state, sharing of additional water, and building of dams, canals, etc.
There could be a lot of causes for this. Some of the causes are that states have more rivers that are flowing and enough water for irrigation and electricity production. Some of the states may experience water shortages and depend on the available resources as a result of the unequal distribution of water resources. The variance in rainfall between states is another factor. Compared to downstream states, upper stream states benefit more from using river water. Therefore, the downstream states will be the primary source of disputes. More dams being built across the river also causes disagreements between the states. These dams prevent downstream communities from receiving water for agriculture and multipurpose projects. These factors raise the demand for river water and cause disagreements between the states.
Interstate water conflicts are disagreements that occur when states share rivers and other water resources. In India, disputes of this nature frequently arise when states that are primarily downstream and upstream share the river's flow. It falls under the administrative interactions between the Center and the State. The Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 states that a "Water Dispute" is any disagreement or argument between two or more State Governments regarding:
the use, distribution, or management of any interstate river or river valley's water resources; or
the application of any agreement concerning the use, distribution, or control of such waters, or the interpretation of its conditions; or
the imposition of any water rate in violation of Section's prohibition.
According to Entry 17, which deals with issues linked to water such water supply, irrigation, water power, water storage, canal, drainage, and embankments, states have the authority to create laws pertaining to water.
Second, Entry 56 of the Union List gives the Centre authority to regulate and develop interstate rivers and river valleys to the degree that is considered necessary in the public interest by parliament.
The Constitution provides a special provision in Article 262 to address problems with water. According to this, Parliament may pass legislation that specifies how disputes or complaints about the usage, distribution, or management of water in interstate rivers or river valleys would be resolved. Despite anything to the contrary in this Constitution, Parliament may by statute provide that no other court, including the Supreme Court, should have jurisdiction over any such dispute or grievance.
There are further ways to increase the center's control over how water resources are used. For instance, according to the requirements of Entry 20 of the Concurrent List for economic and social planning, the centre must approve any project involving the development of water resources (including the projects for irrigation, hydropower, flood control). These clauses give the Center the authority to create water resources while also giving it the means to govern and manage them.
In accordance with Article 262, Parliament has passed two legislations to address the requirements of the time. The list is as follows:
1956 River Board Act
This Act was passed to give the Union Government the ability to establish Boards for Interstate Rivers and River Valleys after consulting with the State Governments. Boards' main goals are to provide guidance on the inter-state basin so that development plans may be made and disputes from developing. Although no river boards have been built for the aforementioned purpose to far.
The 1956 Inter-State Water Dispute Act
In response to Article 262, this Act was passed. According to the Act, the Central Government should attempt to settle the issue through consultation among the aggrieved states if a specific state or states contact the Union Government regarding the establishment of the tribunal. It may serve as the tribunal if it is unsuccessful. It should be noted that the Supreme Court may challenge the tribunal's operation but cannot challenge the award or formula that was granted. The Chief Justice of India, a serving Supreme Court judge, and two additional judges from either the Supreme Court or High Court make up the River Water Tribunal. The current dispute resolution process in India uses tribunals, whose decisions are binding.
It has been discovered that the absence of defined legal and institutional frameworks at the national level exacerbates the issues with dispute resolution. Failure results from a failure to acknowledge the political and emotive aspects of the conflict, which cannot be resolved from a merely legal standpoint. Only by establishing a permanent tribunal with Supreme Court appeal jurisdiction over the panel's ruling can the water conflicts be resolved or balanced. Article 262 amendment as well as Inter-State Water Disputes Act amendment and implementation should be the immediate goals of any constitutional government because it is time for all of us to reevaluate our water management strategies, not just at the state level but also at the national level, keeping the water scenario in the next 30 years in mind.