Interstate River Water Dispute

Water wars of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Reserviors on Krishna River

Mains level : Krishna water dispute

An ongoing jala jagadam (fight over water resources), as it has been described by regional media, once again drew the police forces of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana into a tense standoff over release of water from the Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir.

Krishna River Dispute

  • Both states have disagreements over the sharing of the Krishna River water continue to shape politics in the region.
  • AP alleges that Telangana has been drawing Krishna water from four projects — Jurala, Srisailam, Nagarjuna Sagar, and Pulichintala without approvals from the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB).
  • The KRMB an autonomous body that was set up after the bifurcation of the state, to manage and regulate the waters in the Krishna basin.

What is the issue?

  • The water that is used for power generation, Andhra says, is being wasted by releasing it into the Bay of Bengal, even as farmers in the Krishna delta ayacut are yet to begin sowing of the kharif crop.
  • Telangana says it would continue with the hydropower generation to meet its requirements of power.
  • At the same time, it has taken strong exception to the irrigation projects of the Andhra Pradesh government, especially the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP), which it claims is illegal.
  • Telangana has called for a 50:50 allocation of water from the Krishna River.

How is the water split between the states currently?

  • After Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the two states agreed to split the water share 66:34 on an ad hoc basis until the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-2 decided the final allocation.

Why is Telangana making the big hydel push?

  • The Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project that was inaugurated in 2019 requires a huge amount of power to draw water from the Godavari River.
  • Also, the Telangana government says that it needs hydel energy to power its Nettempadu, Bheema, Koilsagar and Kalwakurthy lift irrigation projects.
  • Despite protests by Andhra, the Telangana CM has chosen to operate all hydel power stations at full capacity because hydel power is cheaper, and imposes a smaller burden on the already stretched state budget.

What is the solution to the disagreement, then?

  • Telangana wants the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-2 to permanently settle the water dispute.
  • In the meantime, it wants the KRMB to convene a full-fledged board meeting on a mutually agreed date this month to address its grievances against Andhra Pradesh.

What political factors are at play behind the dispute?

  • The two CMs have maintained cordial relations and have even met on several occasions to discuss long-standing issues arising out of the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Critics have, however, alleged that the two CMs are fanning regional sentiments purely for political gains.

Back2Basics: Interstate (River) Water Disputes (ISWDs)

  • These are a continuing challenge to federal water governance in India.
  • Rooted in constitutional, historico-geographical, and institutional ambiguities, they tend to become prolonged conflicts between the states that share river basins.
  • India has 25 major river basins, with most rivers flowing across states.
  • As river basins are shared resources, a coordinated approach between the states, with adequate involvement of the Centre, is necessary for the preservation, equitable distribution and sustainable utilization of river water.
  • Within India’s federal political structure, inter-state disputes require the involvement of the Union government for a federal solution at two levels: between the states involved, and between the Centre and the states.
  • The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) was enacted under Article 262 of the Constitution of India on the eve of reorganization of states to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley.
  • Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the state/regional governments.

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