Inter-State Water Disputes Act creating more disputes than resolving them

Contact Counsellor

Inter-State Water Disputes Act creating more disputes than resolving them

  • The Karnataka Chief Minister has stated that it is time to examine the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, as it is causing more disputes than it is resolving.
  • The chief minister's remark comes at a time when Karnataka has been locked in a never-ending battle with Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh over water disputes involving the Cauvery, Mahadayi, and Krishna rivers.
  • The solution should be on the basis of maximum utility of a river basin capacity and using technology, and giving away all political considerations.

Constitutional provisions

  • Art 262 provides for the adjudication of inter-state water disputes. It has two following provisions:
  1. Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley.
  2. Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
  • Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.

  • Entry 56 of Union List empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

  • Central government has also enacted, River boards act (1956) and Inter-state water disputes act (1956).

River Boards Act

  • It provides for establishment of river boards for the regulation and development of Inter-state River and river valleys.
  • Such a river board is established on the request of state governments concerned.

Inter-State water dispute act

  • It empowers the central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between the two or more states in relation to the water of an inter-state river.
  • The decision of the tribunal would be final and binding.
  • Furthermore, the Act bars the SC and any other court to have jurisdiction in this matter.

Issues surrounding the interstate Water Dispute Resolution:

  • It establishes no deadline for settling river water disputes.
  • There is no time limit for adjudication by a Tribunal.
  • No upper age limit for the Chairman or Members, work can be stalled due to a vacancy, and *There is no time limit for publishing the Tribunal's report.
  • The Central Water Commission (CWC) is in charge of surface water, while the Central Ground Water Board of India (CGWB) is in charge of ground water. Both organisations operate independently, and there is no single platform for discussing water management with state governments.


  • The Centre's plan to establish a single, permanent tribunal to resolve inter-state river water disputes might be a significant step toward streamlining the dispute resolution process. *However, this will not be enough to address the various types of issues that plague the broader framework—legal, administrative, constitutional, and political.
  • The Centre's proposal to create an agency to work with the tribunal to collect and evaluate data on river waters could be a good start in the right direction.
  • Political opportunism must be avoided, and disagreements must be settled through dialogue and discussions.
  • To foster cooperative federalism, parochial mindsets that prioritise regional concerns above national concerns should be discouraged.