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After Cauvery: A look at other inter-state water tussles

River Cauvery, the lifeline of the delta districts in Tamil Nadu.   | Photo Credit: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

The Supreme Court on February 16 delivered its verdict on Cauvery river water sharing between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry, bringing an end to a decade-old case. However, the dispute can be considered settled only when the Cauvery Management Board comes into effect and the three States and the Union Territory amicably share the water among themselves even during stressful times such as a drought.

 

The Cauvery dispute is just one among several inter-state river disputes in India. States have been fighting against each other for their 'rightful' share of water since the first reorganisation of States after Independence. An Inter-State River Water Disputes Act was enacted in 1956 to give powers to the Union government to intervene in disputes surrounding inter-state rivers. It was amended in 2002 and a Bill to further amend the Act to create a Disputes Resolution Committee to look at all inter-state water disputes is pending.

Harnessing river water being a State subject, the riparian States are expected to solve issues among themselves. The Centre intervenes, setting up a tribunal, only when the talks fail.

Here's how the tribunals have fared so far:

The curious case of Krishna

The shimmering water of Krishna looks like gold dust sprinkled on the river surface in the sundown hours in Vijayawada on Wednesday. Ch.Vijaya Bhaskar CH_VIJAYA BHASKAR

The shimmering water of Krishna looks like gold dust sprinkled on the river surface in the sundown hours in Vijayawada on Wednesday. Ch.Vijaya Bhaskar CH_VIJAYA BHASKAR  

 

The first-ever Tribunal for a river dispute was formed in 1969 after Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh failed to come up with a formula to share the Krishna water. The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal was formed with R.S. Bachawat as its Chairman. In 1973, the tribunal allocated 560 tmcft of Krishna water to Maharashtra, the State where the river originates. Karnataka was granted 700 tmcft, out of which 173 tmcft was for the Upper Karnataka irrigation project in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. Andhra Pradesh was granted 800 tmcft and was also given the liberty to use surplus water, if any. The tribunal's order was notified three years later.

Thirty years later, the three riparian States decided to review the order. A second tribunal was constituted in 2004 under Brajesh Kumar, and it gave its verdict in 2010. Accordingly, Maharashtra was to receive 666 tmcft of water, Karnataka 911 tmcft, and Andhra Pradesh 1001 tmcft. The tribunal suggested the setting up of the Krishna Basin Authority to protect the basin, especially after large-scale exploitation of groundwater was detected.

Unhappy with the verdict, Andhra Pradesh sought a re-examination. In 2013, the final order was issued where Andhra Pradesh would get 811 tmcft with the freedom to use 227.5 tmcft of surplus water. Karnataka got an additional allocation of 105 tmcft and Maharashtra would receive 35 tmcft of assured additional allocation. Andhra Pradesh moved the Supreme Court against the tribunal's decision.

In the meantime, Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh and it became the fourth riparian State. The case is currently pending in the Supreme Court.

However, the experience has been completely different in the case of Tungabhadra, a tributary of Krishna. The Tungabhadra Board has been monitoring the release of water to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh since the 1950s. A dam constructed in Hosapete has been is helping six parched districts — Ballari, Koppal, and Raichur in Karnataka and Anantapur, Cuddapah and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.

Godavari and a case of river inter-linking

A file photo of the Godavari water flowing in the Polavaram Right Main Canal on the border of Krishna district.

A file photo of the Godavari water flowing in the Polavaram Right Main Canal on the border of Krishna district.  

 

Along with the Krishna Tribunal, Mr. Bachawat was asked to look after the dispute over Godavari river between Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Karnataka over the sharing of the Godavari river water. An MoU was already in place between the then Madras, Bombay and Hyderabad States and Madhya Pradesh. A fresh arrangement was necessitated after states were re-organised on a linguistic basis. The Bachawat Tribunal gave its final award in 1980.

Accordingly, each State was free to utilise the flow in Godavari and its tributaries up to a certain level. Thus Andhra Pradesh, the downstream state, decided to divert 80 tmcft of Godavari water from Polavaram to Krishna river, upstream of Vijayawada Anicut, so that it could be shared with Karnataka and Maharashtra. The Krishna-Godavari linking also gave rise to a national discussion on the inter-linking of rivers.

 

The Inchampalli Project too was started as a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. When Chhattisgarh was carved out, it took over the project from Madhya Pradesh.

Once Telangana came into existence in 2014, the Godavari water and, more specifically, the Polavaram project became the bone of contention between the Telugu-speaking States. While the project will take care of the irrigation needs of the Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana feared it would submerge many villages in its Khammam district. Odisha too has expressed its reservations over the dam's design. Then, there is also the big question of who will fund the project, as the then UPA government at the Centre claimed Polavaram to be was a "national project" but the current NDA government is pushing for a partial-funding mechanism.

Dispute over a dam

INAUGURATION: The Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadiya in Narmada district. Photo: PTI PTI

INAUGURATION: The Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadiya in Narmada district. Photo: PTI PTI  

 

The Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal was also constituted around the same time as the Krishna and Godavari tribunals. Headed by Justice V. Ramaswami, the tribunal gave its award in December 1976. Accordingly, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan were allotted 9, 18.25, 0.25, and 0.50 Million Acre-Feet per year (MAF/year). The tribunal determined that the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam should be fixed at 455 feet. It also approved the Indira Sagar project in Madhya Pradesh. Though the tribunal award was not disputed per se, differences arose over compensation and rehabilitation due to the construction of canal and power projects. The Sardar Sarovar project, for instance, ran into multiple controversies and was finally inaugurated last September, almost 56 years after the foundation stone was laid.

An inter-country dispute

Picturesque A view of River Beas (Right) Entrance to the Vaishno Devi temple

Picturesque A view of River Beas (Right) Entrance to the Vaishno Devi temple  

 

Ravi and Beas flow through Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan before merging with Indus in Pakistan. According to the Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, the two rivers along with Sutlej are to be controlled by India.

The Ravi & Beas Waters Tribunal was constituted in 1986. A year later, the tribunal allocated the waters between Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 1.3:1. While all States involved sought clarifications over the details of the report, the Central government is yet to reply. The order was never notified.

Meanwhile, Punjab enacted the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004 to terminate all agreements relating to the sharing of the waters of Ravi and Beas. The Union government filed a Presidential Reference before the Supreme Court on the constitutional validity of such an Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court opined that the Act was not in accordance with the Constitution, but the matter is still sub judice.

Of floods and diversion

A file photo of the members of the Vamsadhara Water Disputes Tribunal visiting the Neradi barrage site in 2013.

A file photo of the members of the Vamsadhara Water Disputes Tribunal visiting the Neradi barrage site in 2013.   | Photo Credit: Arrangement

 

Vamsadhara originates from the Eastern Ghats near Lanjigarh of Kalahandi district in Odisha and reaches the Bay of Bengal at Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. While both States agreed to utilise the water on a 50:50 basis, trouble brew when Andhra Pradesh began constructing a flood flow canal at Katragada. Odisha feared that the canal would dry up the river bed and deplete the groundwater.

In 1961, Andhra Pradesh had proposed a barrage at Neradi, entailing the acquisition of 106 acres of land in Odisha territory. Odisha refused to entertain the Neradi plea after Andhra Pradesh proceeded with the Katragada project. Andhra Pradesh, on its part, claimed Odisha was diverting Vamsadhara waters to the Rushikulya river basin by building the Harabhangi dam.

A tribunal was set up in 2010, headed by Justice Mukundakam Sharma. In September 2017, the Tribunal gave its final order by allowing Andhra Pradesh to complete the barrages and set up a supervisory committee comprising representatives from both States and the Central Water Commission.

A river with two names

A villager from Sonal Tar village on the Goa-Karnataka border, collects water from the Mahadayi river. Prashant Nakwe

A villager from Sonal Tar village on the Goa-Karnataka border, collects water from the Mahadayi river. Prashant Nakwe  

 

The Mahadayi is a relatively small river with a total length of 80.8km. It originates in the Belagavi district of Karnataka, briefly passes through Maharashtra and flows through Goa (where its known as Mandovi), and drains to the Arabian Sea.

 

Since the eighties, Karantaka has been was contemplating linking of Mahadayi with Malaprabha river, a tributary of Krishna. In 2002, Karnataka gave the idea a shape in the form of the Kalasa-Bhanduri project, whose goal was to divert the excess waters of the Mahadayi into the Malaprabha basin, in the process benefiting northern Karnataka. Goa strongly opposed it as Mahadayi is one of the two rivers the State is dependent on. The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010 and a final award is yet to be given.

Two States and a dam

A view of the Hirakud dam in Odisha.

A view of the Hirakud dam in Odisha.  

 

Mahanadi was famously known as the "sorrow of Odisha" for its devastating floods. The sobriquet vanished after the construction of the Hirakud Dam, which not only solved the problem of constant floods but also transformed the silt-ridden Sambalpur region into a fertile land. Mahanadi originates in the Chhattisgarh plains and flows through northern Odisha to reach the Bay of Bengal by forming several distributaries. Odisha and Chhattisgarh are at loggerheads over the sharing of Mahanadi water. Odisha has repeatedly claimed that Chhattisgarh either blocks or excessively releases water from its Kalma barrage without prior intimation. Odisha approached the Supreme Court in 2016 as Chhattisgarh decided to construct weirs in upstream of Mahanadi. The Union Cabinet on February 20 approved setting up a tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi dispute.


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 9:23:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/after-cauvery-a-look-at-other-inter-state-water-tussles/article22813510.ece

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