[Starts 1st April] 45 Days Super Intensive Prelims (SIP)

Click here to know all detailsSamanvaya, Samachar Manthan, Static subject coverage & Prelims Mock tests

Importance for Exams

  • Mains : Understand the issue, why is it not resolved yet. Steps taken this year. why they are expected to yield better results compared to the past.
  • Prelims : Make a note of the institutional framework(composition, functions,etc) involved : Provisions of Art. 262, ISWD Act, CRA, CMC, CSC and the newly proposed CRMB.

In News

The Kaveri River water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu(TN) has been lingering on for decades. It crops up whenever there is scanty rainfall leading to shortage of water in Kaveri.
This year, Kaveri has seen lesser monsoon rains leading to four main reservoirs in its Karnataka basin being partially full. The situation forced Karnataka to turn on it’s commitment of water sharing leading to resentment from TN.


25 August : Citing a bad monsoon, Karnataka govt announced, it was not in a position to release the TN share of water forcing TN to approach the supreme court.
5 September : Supreme Court directs Tamil Nadu to approach the Cauvery Supervisory Committee(CSC). CSC asks for data, delays ruling.
19 September : Cauvery Supervisory Committee asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs per day from September 21 to 30.
20 September : SC doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs from September 21 to 27. directed the centre to constitute within four weeks the Cauvery Water Management Board(CWMB) as directed by Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal(CWDT) in its 2007 award.
Riots follow.

Core Issues

Historical water use : Since the ancient times, TN had been an agrarian state with more area under agriculture than karnataka. Hence it has depended more on Kaveri. This is the reason why TN has always pushed for a lion’s share and has been awarded one by various tribunals. Karnataka is opposed to this line of thought.
Present dependence : Karnataka farmers are unhappy because their share of water allows them to grow 1 paddy crop + 2nd less water-intensive crop while their counterparts in TN grow 3 crops a year. Karnataka finds it grossly unfair to release water for Tamil Nadu farmers who want to sow their 2nd crop while its own farmers struggle with the first.

Ref : http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/cauvery-water-dispute-karnataka-tamil-nadu-supreme-court-3019228/

The Deadlock

The reasons for the deadlock are as follows
1. Institutional failure
– This issue raises the larger question of the effectiveness of the constitutional provisions of Art 262 relating to Inter-state river water disputes and the Inter-state Water Disputes Act, 1956. River water disputes across India suffer from deadlock.
– CRA and CMC. CRA is political body with no experts. CMC plays a supportive role to the CRA. Neither Karnataka nor Tamil Nadu has endorsed the role and function of these bodies.

Ref : http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl1919/19190090.htm

2. Politicization of the issue
The issue has been blown out of proportion for political gains in respective states. It’s very important that the role of politicians and courts come down in deciding technical issues like these and the advice rendered by technocrats is given more importance.
The proposed Cauvery River Management Board (CRMB) tries to address this issue by having technocrats at decisions making level.

CM Karnataka Interview

Way forward

Cauvery River Management Board (CRMB)
– The Board will take decisions on water usage and distribution.
– The Board will also see to it that states ensure proper hydraulic structures at relevant sites.
– It will determine the amount of water to be received by the states

The idea is to cut down the dependence on monsoon. The board will ensure adequate storage in the reservoirs before the monsoons till the end of May each year. in case monsoons are delayed, the stored water can help minimize distress.
In case of consecutive bad years, the Board will handle the issue appropriately by distributing water in a planned manner with minimum distress.

Ref : http://www.oneindia.com/india/explained-how-will-cauvery-management-board-work-2214962.html


Historical Developments

Only to help you understand the current issue better. Depth not required.

1892 : Agreement between Madras Presidency and Mysore.
1924 : 2nd Agreement under the supervision of GoI.
1970 : fact-finding committee appointed.
1990 : Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT)is set-up under under the Inter-state Water Disputes Act, 1956.
Interim orders passed in 1991, 1992 and 1995.
1998 : Kaveri River Water Scheme notified by the govt. consisting of Cauvery River Authority (CRA) and Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC).
2007 : After 16 years, it announces its award.
Its distribution is as follows
– Tamil Nadu -419 tmc ft
– Karnataka – 270 tmc ft
– Kerala – 30 tmc ft
– Puducherry – 7 tmc ft
This award is challenged by the states. Special Leave Petitions were filed and the Court granted leave.
2013 : On the direction of the Supreme Court, Govt notified the final reward as proposed by the Tribunal in 2007.


RSTV Debates

Any doubts?

  1. Er S

    @vijay-karthik : I don’t see any bias. If any perspective missing, please contribute. They will be included.
    Dont indulge in vague criticism.

  2. Vijay Karthik

    this article is paid article from Karnataka and the author has exhibited partiality.

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


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mentioned rivers and their tributaries, Indus Water Treaty

Mains level: River water disputes in India


SC verdict on Cauvery river water sharing

  1. 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
  2. SC has upheld the Cauvery tribunal’s verdict with modifications

Other inter-state river disputes in India

  1. 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
  2. Along with the Krishna Tribunal, this tribunal 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
  3. The Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal was also constituted around the same time as the Krishna and Godavari tribunals

Inter-country dispute

  1. Ravi and Beas flow through Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan before merging with Indus in Pakistan
  2. 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
  3. The Ravi & Beas Waters Tribunal was constituted in 1986

Flood control mechanism lead to river dispute

  1. Vamsadhara originates from the Eastern Ghats near Lanjigarh of Kalahandi district in Odisha and reaches the Bay of Bengal at Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh
  2. The dispute arose Andhra Pradesh began constructing a flood flow canal at Katragada after
  3. A tribunal was set up in 2010 to review the river water sharing

River interlinking

  1. The Mahadayi is a relatively small river with a total length of 80.8km
  2. 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
  3. Since the eighties, Karnataka has been was contemplating linking of Mahadayi with Malaprabha river, a tributary of Krishna
  4. In 2002, Karnataka gave the idea a shape in the form of the Kalasa-Bhanduri project
  5. Goa strongly opposed it as Mahadayi is one of the two rivers the State is dependent on and thus Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010

Latest dispute: Mahanadi water sharing

  1. Mahanadi originates in the Chhattisgarh plains and flows through northern Odisha to reach the Bay of Bengal by forming several distributaries
  2. Odisha and Chhattisgarh are at loggerheads over the sharing of Mahanadi water
  3. Union Cabinet on February 20 approved setting up a tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi dispute

Cabinet approves tribunal to settle Mahanadi water dispute

Image source


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mahanadi river (geographical features), River water tribunals, Inter-State River Disputes (Amendment) Bill

Mains level: River water disputes and their resolution


Tribunal to settle Mahanadi water dispute

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of a tribunal to settle a row between Odisha and Chhattisgarh on sharing the waters of the river Mahanadi
  2. Supreme Court had directed the Centre to set up a tribunal
  3. This was in response to a plea by the Odisha government to stop the Chhattisgarh government from constructing several weirs on the river

New bill in the offing

  1. The government plans to introduce a new bill that would have a single tribunal to replace all existing water tribunals
  2. The bill, called the Inter-State River Disputes (Amendment) Bill, was introduced in the Lok Sabha in March 2017 but is yet to be debated
  3. After becoming law, it could affect the composition of the members of various tribunals

Current system of appointment

  1. Currently, all tribunals are staffed by members of the judiciary, nominated by the Chief Justice
  2. The proposed Bill has provisions for members, even a Chairperson, outside the judiciary


Inter-State River Disputes (Amendment) Bill

  1. The Bill seeks to amend the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956
  2. Under the 1956 Act, when a complaint is received from a state government regarding a water dispute, the central government may ask the affected states to undertake negotiations to settle the dispute
  3. If the dispute cannot be settled through negotiations, the central government has to set up a Water Disputes Tribunal within a year of receiving such a complaint
  4. The Bill replaces this provision and requires the central government to set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably
  5. The DRC will get a period of one year, extendable by six months, to submit its report to the central government
  6. Members of the DRC will be from relevant fields, as deemed fit by the central government
  7. The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the DRC. This tribunal can have multiple benches
  8. All existing tribunals will be dissolved and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing tribunals will be transferred to this newly formed tribunal
  9. The tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and not more than six nominated members (judges of the Supreme Court or of a High Court), nominated by the Chief Justice of India

Cauvery a national asset, no exclusive ownership, says Supreme Court


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Helsinki Rules of 1966, Campione Rules

Mains level: River water disputes in India


Inter-state river a national asset

  1. The Supreme Court said n inter-State river like Cauvery is a ‘national asset’
  2. Being in a state of flow, no State can claim exclusive ownership of its waters or assert a prescriptive right so as to deprive other States of their equitable share
  3. Principle of equality among riparian States does not imply an equal division of water
  4. Equality here means “equal consideration and equal economic opportunity of the co-basin States

Supporting  just and reasonable use

  1. As one of the beneficial gifts of Nature, each beneficiary has a right to just and reasonable use of river water
  2. The precious right should be equally and reasonable shared by all States concerned

Practices of sharing of international rivers among nations

  1. The principle of equitable apportionment predicates that every riparian State is entitled to a fair share of the water according to its need,
  2. It is imbued with the philosophy that a river has been provided by nature for the common benefit of the community as a whole through whose territory it flows even though those territories may be divided by frontiers as postulated in law
  3. The Supreme Court referred to the Helsinki Rules of 1966, which recognize equitable use of water by each basin State taking into consideration the geography and hydrology of the basin, the climate, past utilization of waters, economic and social needs, dependent population and availability of resources
  4. The judgment also refers to the Campione Rules in the context of the Cauvery dispute
  5. These Rules hold that basin States would in their respective territories manage the waters of an international drainage basin in an equitable and reasonable manner


Helsinki Rules of 1966

  1. The Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers is an international guideline regulating how rivers and their connected groundwaters that cross national boundaries may be used
  2. It was adopted by the International Law Association (ILA) in Helsinki, Finland in August 1966
  3. It led to the creation of the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses
  4. It is applicable to all drainage basins that cross national boundaries, except where other agreement between bordering nations exists
  5. In spite of its adoption by the ILA, there is no mechanism in place that enforces the rules
  6. In 2004, it was superseded by the Berlin Rules on Water Resources

Cauvery issue – a timeline


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms & institutions

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, Cauvery River Authority, samba crops

Mains level: Various river water disputes in India


History of dispute

  1. The Cauvery river water dispute, primarily between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, dates back to the 19th century
  2. An agreement was signed between Madras Presidency and the princely State of Mysore in 1924 regarding water sharing that lapsed in 1974

SC intervention

  1. In May 1990, Supreme Court directed Centre to constitute Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal
  2. This demand was being made by Tamil Nadu since 1970

Constitution of Cauvery Tribunal

  1. On June 2, 1990, Centre notified Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT)
  2. In June 1991, the CWDT announced an interim award and ordered Karnataka to release 205 tmcft of water
  3. In a move to nullify the interim awards, Karnataka government passed an Ordinance
  4. Supreme Court intervened, struck down Karnataka’s ordinance and upheld the interim award of the CWDT
  5. Karnataka refused to oblige

Deepening of crisis and measures by government

  1. In August 1998, Centre constituted Cauvery River Authority chaired by Prime Minister to ensure the implementation of the interim award of CWDT
  2. On Feb. 5, 2007, Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gave final award
  3. Tribunal held as valid the two agreements of 1892 and 1924 executed between the Governments of Madras and Mysore on the apportionment of water to Tamil Nadu

Recent development

  1. On September 5, 2016, the Supreme Court directed the Karnataka government to release 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu for the next 10 days to ameliorate the plight of farmers
  2. Noting that the samba crops in Tamil Nadu will be adversely affected SC directed Karnataka to ensure supply of water to Tamil Nadu

Continue release of 2,000 cusecs to TN till further orders, SC tells Karnataka

  1. A three-judge Bench, extended its October 4, 2016 order, directing Karnataka to release 2000 cusecs a day to Tamil Nadu
  2. This interim arrangement would continue till the court gives further orders
  3. Centre view: The Attorney-General submitted that the SC had no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals
  4. This is because the 2007 tribunal award was final under Article 262 of the Constitution and provisions of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956
  5. Karnataka view: Parliament cannot curtail the Supreme Court’s powers to render justice

Cauvery panel tells Supreme Court of drought, debt II

  1. More findings: Many of them have been pushed to committing suicide due to financial burden.
  2. Farmers are suffering for drinking water and irrigation water since available ground water is not suitable
  3. In Karnataka, the team found that a large number of suicides were reported from Mandya district
  4. In Tamil Nadu: Farmers have sought the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board
  5. In Karnataka: The government had declared 42 out of 48 talukas under Cauvery basin as drought affected based on Central Government guidelines

Cauvery panel tells Supreme Court of drought, debt I

  1. Source: A SC-appointed High Level Technical Team report to the SC
  2. Findings: The parched Cauvery basin is a big reason for farmers’ suicides and mass migrations in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka,.
  3. The ground realities of the Cauvery delta region include drought and rising unemployment
  4. The bore wells are dug to a 1000-feet deep and there is withering of acres of crops in both States
  5. Agriculture laborers have been migrating from delta districts of Tamil Nadu

Draft Water Bill suggests basin-level management- II

  1. Right: Every person has a ‘right to sufficient quantity of safe water for life’ within easy reach of the household
  2. This is regardless of caste, creed, religion, age, community, class, gender, disability, economic status, land ownership and place of residence
  3. States should ensure that water is conserved
  4. Also stresses on Centre and States working in partnership for managing water
  5. Insti: Proposes establishing institutional arrangements at all levels within a State and beyond up to an inter-State river basin level
  6. Aim: To ‘obviate’ disputes through negotiations, conciliation or mediation before they become acute
  7. Challenge: Water being a State subject, the Bill will not be binding on States for adoption

Draft Water Bill suggests basin-level management- I

  1. Context: Several inter-State disputes over river water sharing
  2. Bill: Centre has brought final draft of the National Water Framework Bill, 2016
  3. Provisions: It stresses managing water at basin-level and right measurement of State’s contribution to river system to resolve conflicts
  4. Pitches for establishing River Basin Authority for each inter-State basin to ensure optimum and sustainable development of rivers and valleys
  5. Public trustees: It suggests States to recognise the principle that the rivers are not owned by the basin-States but are public trustees
  6. All basin States have equitable rights over a river water ‘provided such use does not violate the right to water for life’ of any person in the river basin

Cauvery board formation put off, SC gives nod for ‘technical team’

  1. SC put on hold its order to constitute the Cauvery Management Board (CMB)
  2. It finally settled for the Centre’s suggestion to appoint a technical team to visit the Cauvery basin and report back on the ground reality there
  3. Meanwhile, as an interim arrangement, a Bench ordered Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of water from October 7 to 18

SC cannot order setting up CMB

  1. The Supreme Court had ordered that the Cauvery Management Board to be set up on October 4, inspect the 80,000 sq km Cauvery basin and submit a report by October 6
  2. However, Centre submitted that the order to constitute the CMB cannot be complied with
  3. Why? While the CMB was recommended by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in its final order in 2007, the tribunal award itself was under challenge in the Supreme Court

Karnataka starts release of water, ends defiance of SC

  1. Following a unanimous resolution in the State legislature, Karnataka ended its defiance of the Supreme Court’s orders
  2. It started the release of 6,800 cusecs of water for irrigation purposes from the Krishna Raj Sagar dam & a large portion of this water is expected to reach Tamil Nadu
  3. The move comes in the wake of the SC’s observation, warning Karnataka not to invite the wrath of the court and asking it to release 6,000 cusecs a day from October 1 to 6

Supreme Court gives last chance to Karnataka to release Cauvery water

  1. SC has given Karnataka a last chance to release 6000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu between October 1, 2016 and October 6, 2016 before the ‘wrath of law falls on the State’
  2. KWMB: It simultaneous asked the Centre to set up the Cauvery Water Management Board by October 4
  3. Purpose: So that the Board can visit the Cauvery sites to check the ground realities
  4. It slammed Karnataka for flouting its orders and creating a situation by which the majesty of law is dented
  5. Invoked its limitless powers under Article 144 of the Indian Constitution to enforce its orders
  6. A144: All authorities in the territory of India are bound to obey the orders of the Supreme Court and render assistance and aid for the implementation of the orders of this court

Legislature can’t overrule decision- Mullaperiyar case

  1. Flashback: Constitution Bench judgement in the Mullaperiyar dam case (May 2014)
  2. What? The Bench had quashed a State law promulgated by the Kerala Legislature to defy a Supreme Court order
  3. The law had allowed water level in the dam to be increased from 136 feet to 142 feet in favour of Tamil Nadu
  4. The judgement: The legislature, cannot by a bare declaration, directly overrule, reverse or override a judicial decision
  5. Separation of Powers: A law enacted by the legislature may apparently seem to be within its competence
  6. But yet in substance if it is shown as an attempt to interfere with the judicial process, such law may be invalidated being in breach of doctrine of separation of powers

The authority of SC over water disputes- former judges’ perspective- II

  1. Context: The resolution passed by the two Houses of Karnataka on September 23 to deny Tamil Nadu Cauvery water against SC order
  2. Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan: The SC’s mandate to be the final arbiter of inter-State water disputes is derived from the Indian Constitution itself, and not even the Parliament
  3. The Constitution makers gave the SC this power to prevent a situation by which one State will pass a resolution against the other and a constitutional crisis will ensue

The authority of SC over water disputes- former judges’ perspective- I

  1. Context: The resolution passed by the two Houses of Karnataka on September 23 to deny Tamil Nadu Cauvery water against SC order
  2. Justice K.T. Thomas: The resolution is only to fit to be kept in the records of the Karnataka Legislature and has no authority
  3. At best, it can be treated as an expression of opinion or a criticism of the Supreme Court order
  4. Everyone has the right to criticise a court order, but the SC is the final authority in resolving inter-State water disputes
  5. Under Article 144 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court could even call summon the services of the Army to aid it in implementing a judicial order

Karnataka Assembly resolution on Cauvery dispute has no value: former SC judges

  1. Context: The resolution passed by the two Houses of Karnataka on September 23 to deny Tamil Nadu Cauvery water
  2. Former SC judges: It is merely an ill-advised misadventure
  3. The resolution is no match for the constitutional might of the Supreme Court as the final and sole arbiter of Inter-State and Inter-State water disputes
  4. Background: Earlier, SC had ordered Karnataka to release 6000 cusecs of water per day
  5. But then Karnataka assembly passed resolution to deny water to Tamil Nadu
  6. Later SC had even refused to entertain Karnataka’s objections against releasing 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu for three days

What judges say does not become law: Siddaramaiah

  1. Striking a defiant note, Karnataka CM that he was yet to read the Supreme Court order on releasing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu
  2. Also that the priority is for drinking water according to our national water policy (2012), so the SC verdict to release water does not become a law or an order immediately

Solving water dispute- a water security perspective

  1. According to Central Water Commission Chair, we must emphasize on water storage and its conservation for resolving such crisis
  2. We cannot think of bringing water security unless we are able to create enough capacity for its storage and release it as per requirement

Management board an ideal option to end Cauvery impasse: CWC chief

  1. Context: Cauvery river water dispute- The Supreme Court order and consequences
  2. SC has directed the Centre to constitute within four weeks a Cauvery water management board as directed by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in its award
  3. It will have representatives from both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
  4. SC also directed the Karnataka government to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water a day to Tamil Nadu till September 27

Which of the following are tributaries of River Cauvery?

1- Hemavati
2- Noyyal
3- Amaravati River

A) 1 & 2 only B) 1 & 3 only C) All of the above D) None of the above

Plea in SC seeks action against fringe elements

  1. Context: The SC order to Karnataka release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and subsequent violence and incitement of regional parochial sentiments
  2. What? Supreme Court agreed to urgently hear a petition seeking a judicial direction to the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to control and act against the fringe elements which orchestrated violence in both States
  3. Infringement of rights: Widespread destruction of public and private properties had led to the infringement of fundamental rights to life and movement in the two States
  4. Discuss: What are the Constitutional and statutory devices available in India to solve water disputes? Also critically evaluate the successes of tribunals in resolving river water disputes in India.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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