Interstate River Water Dispute

Interstate River Water Dispute

Mekedatu Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mekedatu Project

Mains level : Cauvery Water Dispute

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Zone has appointed a joint committee to look into allegations of unauthorized construction activity taking place in Mekedatu, where the Karnataka government had proposed to construct a dam across the Cauvery River.

What is the Mekedatu Project?

  • Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru, at the Kanakapura taluk in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district.
  • In 2013, then Karnataka announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project.
  • The project aimed to alleviate the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramanagara district.
  • It was also expected to generate hydro-electricity to meet the power needs of the state.

Issues with the project

  • Soon after the project was announced TN has objected over granting of permission or environmental clearance.
  • Explaining the potential for damage to the lower riparian state of TN, it said that the project was in violation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • It stated that the project will affect the natural flow of the river Cauvery considerably and will severely affect the irrigation in TN.

Interstate River Water Dispute

What is Rule Curve of a river?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mullaperiyar Dam

Mains level : Interstate river water disputes in India

The Supreme Court has warned the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary against the failure to give information on the rule curve for Mullaperiyar dam.

Do you know?

The Mullaperiyar dam is located in Kerala on the river Periyar but is operated and maintained by the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.

What is the Rule Curve?

  • A rule curve or rule level specifies the storage or empty space to be maintained in a reservoir during different times of the year.
  • Here the implicit assumption is that a reservoir can best satisfy its purposes if the storage levels specified by the rule curve are maintained in the reservoir at different times.
  • It decides the fluctuating storage levels in a reservoir.
  • The gate opening schedule of a dam is based on the rule curve.
  • It is part of the “core safety” mechanism in a dam.

Why such a move?

  • During the high-voltage hearing, the Tamil Nadu government blamed Kerala for delaying the finalization of the rule curve for the 123-year-old dam.
  • Kerala government has accused Tamil Nadu of adopting an “obsolete” gate operation schedule dating back to 1939.

About Mullaperiyar Dam

  • Mullaperiyar Dam is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in the Indian state of Kerala.
  • It is located on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Thekkady, Idukki District of Kerala.
  • It was constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick and also reached an agreement to divert water eastwards to the Madras Presidency area (present-day Tamil Nadu).
  • It has a height of 53.6 m from the foundation, and a length of 365.7 m.
  • The Periyar National Park in Thekkady is located around the dam’s reservoir.
  • The dam is built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.

Interstate River Water Dispute

Inter state water Sharing disputes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Entry 56 of the Union List

Mains level : Paper 2- Challenges to water governance

The article highlights the issue of challenges facing the water governance in India, how need for more coordination between the Centre and the States.

Objectives of the two bills

  • Interstate River Water Disputes Amendment Bill 2019 and the Dam Safety Bill 2019 were passed by Lok Sabha and awaits Rajya Sabha nod.
  • The Interstate River Water Disputes Amendment Bill 2019 seeks to improve the inter-state water disputes resolution by setting up a permanent tribunal.
  • The Dam Safety Bill 2019 aims to deal with the risks of India’s ageing dams, with the help of a comprehensive federal institutional framework comprising.
  • The other pending bills also propose corresponding institutional structures and processes.

Challenges to the federal water governance

  • The agenda of future federal water governance is not limited to the above cited issues.
  • These include emerging concerns of long-term national water security and sustainability, the risks of climate change, and the growing environmental challenges, including river pollution.
  • These challenges need systematic federal response where the Centre and the states need to work in a partnership mode.
  • Greater Centre-states coordination is also crucial for pursuing the current national projects — whether Ganga river rejuvenation or inland navigation or inter-basin transfers.

Challenges to water governance

  • Water governance is perceived and practiced as the states’ exclusive domain, even though their powers are subject to those of the Union under the Entry 56 about inter-state river water governance.
  • The River Boards Act 1956 legislated under the Entry 56 has been in disuse.
  • No river board was ever created under the law.
  • The Centre’s role is largely limited to resolving inter-state river water disputes by setting up tribunals for their adjudication.
  • Combined with the states’ dominant executive power, these conditions create challenges for federal water governance.
  • This state of affairs puts the proposed bills at a disadvantage.

Bridging the water governance gap

  • Each bill proposes their own institutional mechanisms and processes leaning on closer Centre-state coordination and deliberation.
  • The disputes resolution committee and dam safety authority rely on active Centre-states participation.
  • Segmented and fragmented mechanisms bear the risks of the federal water governance gap.

Way forward

  • The massive central assistance (Rs 3.6 lakh crore- Centre and states together) through  Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), is an opportunity to open a dialogue with the states to address this governance gap.
  • Globally, federated systems with comparable organisation of powers have used similar investments to usher key water sector reforms.
  • The symbiotic phase of implementing JJM can be productively used to engage in a dialogue with the states about the larger water resources management agenda, beyond the mission’s goals.
  • The Centre can work with the states in building a credible institutional architecture for gathering data and producing knowledge about water resources.

Consider the question “Water governance in the country requires greater Centre-State coordination to deal with the current issues as well as future challenges. In light of this, examine the challenges and suggest the strategies to deal with it.”


Bridging the governance gap between the Centre and State and creation of institutional framework is at the heart of addressing the future challenges to the federal water governance in the country.

Back2Basics: River Board Act 1956

  • The act to provide for the establishment of River Boards for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys.
  • It empowers the Central Government, on a request received in this behalf from a State Government to establish a River Board for advising the Governments on regulation or development of an inter-State river or river valley or any specified part thereof.

Interstate River Water Dispute

[pib] Status of Mahanadi Tribunal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Inter-state water dispute

Mains level : Inter-state water dispute

At present, the Mahanadi dispute is under adjudication in the Tribunal under Section 5 (2) of Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956

Note the interrelation between the Article 262 and 253.They contain provisions related to international and interstate water sharing.

Mahanadi Tribunal

  • The Central Government has constituted Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal in 2018 under Section 4 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
  • It is set to adjudicate on water disputes between the riparian States of Odisha and Chhattisgarh
  • The tribunal is expected to give its verdict within a period of three years.
  • Provided that if the decision cannot be given for an unavoidable reason, within a period of three years, the Central Government may extend the period for a further period not exceeding two years.

What is the dispute about?

  • Chhattisgarh has been constructing dams and weirs (small dams) upstream the Mahanadi. This is being allegedly carried on without consulting Odisha.
  • It would affect the flow of the river downstream and affect drinking water supply. Also, it would impact the irrigation facilities in Odisha and adversely affect the interests of the farmers.
  • Moreover, the weirs and other projects would impact the flow of water in the Hirakud reservoir, a multipurpose river valley project, which is a lifeline for many in the state.

Back2Basics: Water Disputes Resolution in India

  • The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted under Article 262 of Constitution of India on the eve of the reorganization of states on the linguistic basis to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river[1] 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.
  • This Act further has undergone amendments subsequently and its most recent amendment took place in the year 2002.
  • A/c to art 262, the Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
  • Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.

Note: Any river water sharing treaty made with other countries, has to be ratified by the Parliament as per Article 253 after deciding the share of the Indian riparian states per Article 262 to make the treaty constitutionally valid or enforceable by the judiciary. The government has signed Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan, Ganga water-sharing treaty with Bangladesh, etc. without the ratification by the Parliament and the consent of concerned riparian states per Article 252.

Interstate River Water Dispute

Kalasa-Banduri Dam Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalasa-Banduri Dam Project

Mains level : Inter-state water disputes

India is on the brink of an acute water crisis, which has, to an extent, fabricated a looming threat of trans-boundary water conflicts. The conflict on the Mandovi / Mahadayi River— flowing through Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra— is one such example.

Try this PYQ:

What is common to the places known as Aliyar, Isapur and Kangsabati?

(a) Recently discovered uranium deposits

(b) Tropical rain forests

(c) Underground cave systems

(d) Water reservoirs

Kalasa-Banduri Project

  • The project undertaken by the Karnataka government proposes to divert Mandovi river water from Kalasa and Banduri canals into the Malaprabha river in the state.
  • The project received clearance from the Centre in 2002. It aims to construct a total of 11 dams on the river Mandovi.
  • The diversion of water from Kalasa and Banduri nullahs, however, has been the point of contention between Karnataka and Goa, with the latter claiming it would strip the state of its flora and fauna.

The conflict

  • The Mandovi originates from Karnataka’s Belgaum district.
  • The Mandovi river basin falls into the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • The river is 81 kilometres (km) in length; 35 km of which flows in Karnataka, 1 km in Maharashtra and 45 km in Goa.
  • The seeds of the conflict were sowed over 40 years ago: In 1985Karnataka initially explored a 350 megawatt-hydro-electric project to divert 50 per cent of the Mandovi river water in Karnataka for irrigation.
  • The plan was also to allow a steady flow of water from the power project’s storage dam after using the water for irrigation purposes in Karnataka.
  • This would have served to drinking water and irrigation purposes in Goa as well.

Interstate River Water Dispute

Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sutlej Yamuna Link

Mains level : Inter-state water disputes

Opposing the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project and staking claim to Yamuna’s waters, Punjab CM warned about the repercussions. Here is a look at the decades-old issue and why it has come up again now.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Which one of the following pairs is not correctly matched? (CSP 2017)

Dam/Lake River

(a) Govind Sagar: Satluj

(b) Kolleru Lake: Krishna

(c) Ukai Reservoir: Tapi

(d) Wular Lake: Jhelum

What is the SYL canal issue?

  • At the time of reorganization of Punjab in 1966, the issue of sharing of river waters between both the states emerged.
  • Punjab refused to share waters of Ravi and Beas with Haryana stating it was against the riparian principle.
  • Before the reorganization, in 1955, out of 15.85 MAF of Ravi and Beas, the Centre had allocated 8 MAF to Rajasthan, 7.20 MAF to undivided Punjab, 0.65MAF to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Out of 7.20 MAF allocated, Punjab did not want to share any water with Haryana.
  • In March 1976, when the Punjab Reorganization Act was implemented, the Centre notified fresh allocations, providing 3.5 MAF To Haryana.

Inception of the canal project

  • Later, in 1981, the water flowing down Beas and Ravi was revised and pegged at 17.17 MAF, out of which 4.22 MAF was allocated to Punjab, 3.5 MAF to Haryana, and 8.6 MAF to Rajasthan.
  • Finally, to provide this allocated share of water to southern parts of Haryana, a canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna, cutting across the state, was planned.
  • Finally, the construction of 214-km SYL was started in April 1982, 122 km of which was to run through Punjab and the rest through Haryana.
  • Haryana has completed its side of the canal, but work in Punjab has been hanging fire for over three decades.

Why has the SYL canal come up again now?

  • The issue is back on centre stage after the Supreme Court directed the CMs of Punjab and Haryana to negotiate and settle the SYL canal issue.
  • The apex court asked for a meeting at the highest political level to be mediated by the Centre so that the states reach a consensus over the completion of the SYL canal.
  • The meeting remained inconclusive with the Centre expressing the view that the construction of the SYL canal should be completed. But Punjab CM refused categorically.

Punjab’s resentment with the project

  • The dispute is based on the bloody history around the SYL canal. The trouble-torn days of terrorism in Punjab started in the early 1980s when work on the SYL started.
  • Punjab feels it utilized its precious groundwater resources to grow the crop for the entire country and should not be forced to share its waters as it faces desertification.
  • It is feared that once the construction of the canal restarts, the youth may start feeling that the state has been discriminated against.
  • The Punjab CM fears Pakistan and secessionist organisations could exploit this and foment trouble in the state.

Water crisis in Punjab

  • Punjab is facing severe water crisis due to over-exploitation of its underground aquifers for the wheat/paddy monocycle.
  • According to the Central Underground Water Authority’s report, its underground water is over-exploited to meet the agriculture requirements in about 79 per cent area of the state.
  • Out of 138 blocks, 109 are “over-exploited”, two are “critical” five are “semi-critical” and only 22 blocks are in “safe” category.

Punjab expects a new tribunal

  • The state wants a tribunal seeking a fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability.
  • The state has been saying that till date there has been no adjudication or scientific assessment of Punjab river waters.

Interstate River Water Dispute

Vamsadhara River Water Dispute


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vamsadhara River, Inter-state water dispute

Mains level : Inter-state water dispute

Andhra Pradesh  and Odisha CM recently held talks to iron out all differences with regard to the sharing of Vamsadhara River waters.

Note all major rivers over which inter-state disputes exist say Narmada, Mahadayi, Cauvery, Krishna, etc. Observe their flow and the area swept.

Also, refer your atlas to check the complicated border sharings between Chhatisgarh, AP/Telangana and Odisha.

Vamsadhara River

  • River Vamsadhara is an important east-flowing river between Rushikulya and Godavari, in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The river originates in the border of Thuamul Rampur in the Kalahandi district and Kalyansinghpur in Rayagada district of Odisha.
  • It runs for a distance of about 254 kilometres, where it joins the Bay of Bengal at Kalingapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
  • The total catchment area of the river basin is about 10,830 square kilometres.

The dispute

  • Andhra Pradesh wants to build the Neradi bridge across the river which will be possible only after Odisha’s consent.
  • Odisha argues that the flood flow canal would result in drying up the existing river bed and consequent shifting of the river affecting the groundwater table.
  • Odisha also raised the issue of scientific assessment of available water in Vamsadhara at Katragada and Gotta Barrage, Andhra Pradesh and the basis for sharing the available water.

Back2Basics: Interstate River Water Disputes

  • River waters use/harnessing is included in states jurisdiction. However, article 262 of the Constitution provides for the adjudication of inter-state water disputes.
  • Under this, 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.
  • The President of India may also establish an interstate council as per Article 263 to inquire and recommend on the dispute that has arisen between the states
  • The Parliament has enacted the two laws, the River Boards Act (1956) and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956).
  • Under this, 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.
  • The Inter-State Water Disputes Act empowers the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to the waters of an inter-state river or river valley.
  • The award of the tribunal is final and binding on the parties to the dispute.
  • Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to have jurisdiction in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to such a tribunal under this Act.

Interstate River Water Dispute

Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project

Mains level : Mahadayei Water Dispute


The cost of Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project on the Mahadayi River skyrockets by 1,674% since inception. It rose from about ₹94 crores (2000) to ₹1,677.30 crores (2020) due to the ongoing inter-State river water dispute.

Kalasa-Banduri Nala Project

  • The project is undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the three districts of Belagavi, Dharwad, and Gadag.
  • It was planned in 1989; Goa raised an objection to it.
  • It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert water to the Malaprabha, a tributary of Krishna River.
  • Malaprabha river supplies the drinking water to Dharwad, Belgaum, and Gadag districts.

About Mahadayi Water Dispute

  • The Mahadayi river basin drains an area of 2032 square kilometres of which 375 square km lies in Karnataka, 77 sq km in Maharashtra and the remaining in Goa.
  • 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, Karnataka 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.
  • 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.

Read more about the Mahadayi Dispute and award of the tribunal at:

Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal Comes

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 :

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 :

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 :

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.


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