Despite the legal framework to resolve inter-state river water disputes, why do they continue to exist? Also, discuss measures that can be taken to resolve such disputes in an expeditious and agreeable manner.

Article 262 of the Constitution of India provides that the Parliament may by law provide for the resolution of inter-state water disputes. Also, the Parliament may stipulate that no court has jurisdiction over the same.

The legal framework to resolve inter-state water disputes:

  • Inter-state river water disputes Act 1956, provides for the establishment of tribunals for the resolution of such disputes e.g, Godavari River Tribunal, Krishna River Dispute Tribunal, etc.
  • River Boards Act 1956, was also promulgated for amicable management of river waters.
  • Inter-State Council formed on the recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission also provides a platform for cooperative federalism and inter-state communication and Cooperation.

Why Inter-State River Water Disputes continue:

  • The flow of rivers through various States, cutting across territorial boundaries. E.g, the Krishna river dispute between Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry.
  • Some states were formed later and this gave rise to new disputes, e.g water sharing between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and the Sutlej river dispute between Punjab and Haryana.
  • Heavy dependence on river water for agricultural irrigation, drinking water, etc.
  • River water disputes have turned more into politically motivated disputes.
  • Center-state clashes also add fuel to the fire with respect to water being a state subject but inter-state water management comes under the central list under schedule 7.

Measures to be taken to resolve river water disputes:

  • Increasing engagement at the level of the governing council of NITI Aayog, which is the flag-bearer of federalism based on cooperation, collaboration, and competition.
  • Improve the functioning of the inter-state council with more frequent meetings.
  • Increasing the speed and efficiency of river water dispute tribunals.
  • Enhanced water data collection via Remote Sensing, mapping, and surveying.
  • Increasing financial support to water deficit state to invest in technologies to improve water harvesting and grey water recycling.

Various steps taken by the government like Jal Shakti Abhiyan, Jal Jeevan Mission, AMRUT, etc which aim at improving water availability, need ground-level community-led engagement.

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