Cau­very River Wa­ter Dis­pute .................................

Ad­vo­cat­ing a modern ap­proach to Basin Wa­ter Al­lo­ca­tion

Libertatem Magazine - - Content - By-nada Zaim Faruqi

"Wa­ter is a fugi­tive re­source that can­not be eas­ily con­tained by po­lit­i­cal bound­aries or prop­erty rights."

Wa­ter be­ing such an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of hu­man ex­is­tence has led to in­ter­na­tional and in­tra-na­tional con­flicts over the years and has be­lea­guered the ar­eas of Mid­dle East, East­ern Europe and South East Asia. In­di­vid­u­als, so­ci­eties and na­tions; in their bid to max­i­mize profit out of this in­creas­ingly scarce re­source have ran into con­flicts over rivers that flow across bound­aries. One such ma­jor source of con­flict is the River Cau­very, a penin­su­lar rain­fed river that largely flows through the States of Kar­nataka (for­merly the Princely State of Mysore) and Tamil Nadu (for­merly the Prov­ince of Madras) and dis­charges into the Bay of Ben­gal.

Some of the main causes of a river wa­ter dis­pute are con­tested prop­erty rights, changes in es­tab­lished rights or use pat­terns, the de­gree of asym­me­try, and the scope for col­lec­tive ac­tion. (Wa­ter and Iden­tity: An Anal­y­sis of the Cau­very River Wa­ter Dis­pute, P.B. Anand, Brad­ford Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment) The in­ter­play of power pol­i­tics, up­stream and down­stream de­mo­graph­ics, the sea­sonal na­ture of the river; in other words the de­pen­dency of the river on mon­soon, the ques­tion of is­sue-link­age be­tween re­gions per­tain­ing to other trans­ac­tions, et al. call for a more broad­ened ap­proach to the is­sue of wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion mech­a­nism in ar­eas that are fraught with river dis­pute. In any ma­jor river wa­ter dis­pute, the bone of con­tention is about rights over re­sources. In most cases, the ri­par­ian rights are cus­tom­ary rights based on prior use rather than statu­tory rights and th­ese are

based on agree­ments made sev­eral decades ago, for his­tor­i­cal, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal rather than eco­nomic rea­sons. In the Cau­very dis­pute, this goes back to an agree­ment be­tween the then states of Mysore and Madras in 1892. (Ibid.) But as the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and dy­nam­ics change, it be­comes the need of the hour to change the ap­proach to­wards dis­pute-set­tle­ment mech­a­nism. In the light of the in­terim and the fi­nal award by the In­ter-states Wa­ter Dis­putes Tri­bunal and the sub­se­quent or­der of the Supreme Court, it can be ar­gued that a more modern ap­proach to basin wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion rather than a mere set of guide­lines to re­lease a fixed amount of wa­ter from the up­stream to the down­stream. The so­lu­tion should in­volve a thor­ough read­ing into the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, eco­nom­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal dy­nam­ics of the com­pet­ing par­ties.

'Basin Wa­ter Al­lo­ca­tion Plan­ning: Prin­ci­ples, Pro­ce­dures and Ap­proaches for Basin Wa­ter Al­lo­ca­tion Plan­ning',


au­thors have put forth the 'Ten golden rules of basin wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion,' which says, "The ap­pro­pri­ate ap­proach to basin al­lo­ca­tion plan­ning will be de­ter­mined by the lo­cal con­text, his­tory, nat­u­ral con­di­tions, econ­omy and in­sti­tu­tions: there is no sin­gle cor­rect ap­proach." How­ever, there are cer­tain prin­ci­ples that need to be borne in mind to en­sure more dy­namic re­sults:

1) In basins where wa­ter is be­com­ing stressed, it is im­por­tant to link al­lo­ca­tion plan­ning to broader so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment plan­ning

2) Suc­cess­ful basin al­lo­ca­tion pro­cesses de­pend on the ex­is­tence of ad­e­quate in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­ity 3) The de­gree of com­plex­ity in an al­lo­ca­tion plan should re­flect the com­plex­ity and chal­lenges in the basin

4) Con­sid­er­able care is re­quired in defin­ing the amount of wa­ter avail­able for al­lo­ca­tion

5) En­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter needs pro­vide a foun­da­tion on which basin al­lo­ca­tion plan­ning should be built

6) The wa­ter needs of cer­tain pri­or­ity pur­poses should be met be­fore wa­ter is al­lo­cated among other users

7) In stressed basins, wa­ter ef­fi­ciency as­sess­ments and ob­jec­tives should be de­vel­oped in or along­side the al­lo­ca­tion plan

8) Al­lo­ca­tion plans need to have a clear and eq­ui­table ap­proach for ad­dress­ing vari­abil­ity be­tween years

9) Al­lo­ca­tion plans need to in­cor­po­rate flex­i­bil­ity in recog­ni­tion of un­cer­tainty over the medium to long term

10) A clear process is re­quired for con­vert­ing re­gional wa­ter shares into lo­cal and in­di­vid­ual wa­ter en­ti­tle­ments, and for clearly defin­ing an­nual al­lo­ca­tions

The un­der­ly­ing prin­ci­ple that em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion wherein the chang­ing trends, needs and pri­or­i­ties are ap­pre­ci­ated and taken into con­sid­er­a­tion and rights and li­a­bil­i­ties are de­ter­mined on the ba­sis of ex­pe­di­ency de­serves na­tional at­ten­tion in the wake of the Cau­very row. In­dia will, in the long run, need to con­sider such an ap­proach to dis­pute-set­tle­ment to put the in­ter­nal ten­sions at rest.

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