Changes planned to quickly resolve water disputes

Centre to maintain a data bank of each river basin

The Centre has proposed crucial changes in the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to quickly resolve water sharing disputes between basin States and to give a tribunal’s award the force of an order/decree of the Supreme Court.

It has proposed to appoint an agency to maintain a data bank at the national level for each river basin.

For the first time on Monday, the Union Water Resources Ministry unfolded its draft amendments to the Act that provides for a single tribunal in place of multiple tribunals to adjudicate on inter-State water disputes in a fixed time-frame of two years, which may be extended by one year.

The draft, which was discussed at a meeting of State Irrigation Secretaries here, threw up some concerns, which Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh, who chaired the meeting, said would be taken on board.

Tamil Nadu, for instance, said that in case the current tribunals cease to exist, as is proposed, then the present Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal must not be dissolved.

The State had reservations about the proposed amendment that suggested that the current disputes would stand transferred to the new tribunal after the amendments are notified.

Separate benches

However, it was clarified that there would be an enabling clause to provide two separate benches to look after the ‘balance work’ of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and the Ravi Beas Water Tribunal.

It is proposed that the single tribunal shall have eight members, including a chairperson and vice-chairperson, and initially the members of the existing tribunals who are below (the new upper age limit of) 70 years would constitute the tribunal.

The tribunal shall comprise three benches and once a dispute is referred to it, the chairman shall assign it to a Bench. If there is a vacancy on a Bench then, a member of another shall hear the matter till the vacancy is filled. In other words, disputes shall not be kept pending and allowed to go unresolved on account of a vacancy.

Tamil Nadu

Andhra Pradesh

Other States






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