Centre to bring law to resolve inter-state water disputes
New Delhi: Seeking to speed up inter-state river water dispute resolution among states and manage affairs of 13 river basins across India through an exclusive Master Plan for each of them, the government is gearing up to bring a new law and towards that end introduce a bill on the issue during the winter session of Parliament.
The move will bring a new concept of ‘basin approach’ to build capacity and resolve conflicts through cooperation at state level. If the proposed legislation is enacted, it will replace the River Board Act, 1956 which does not have teeth as its recommendations are only advisory in nature.
The proposed River Basin Management Bill, 2018, seeks to set up 13 River Basin Authorities. Each authority will have a two-tier system, consisting of a governing council and an executive board. The council will comprise of CMs of all states within particular basin. “The government intends to bring this bill in winter session of Parliament,” said Union water resources secretary U P Singh.
He told TOI that the authority will provide the CMs of river basin states a forum to discuss all the issues (unlike the existing practice where there is hardly any forum of discussion at political level).
“The enactment of the proposed law will, hopefully, result in change of environment from the one of conflicts to that of cooperation,” said Singh, adding that it will not only help in faster resolution of disputes but also result in integrated development of entire basin.
The authorities will be set up for river basins of Ganga, Indus, Godavari, Mahanadi, Mahi, Narmada, Pennar, Cauvery, Krishna, Tapi, Subarnrekha, Brahmani-Baitarini and Brahamaputra- Barakinter-state rivers of northeast. The bill provides for a mechanism where chief ministers of basin states will meet at least twice a year to discuss all the issues concerning the river basin and take a call on various issues. The chairperson of the governing council will be from amongst the CMs of the basin states, by rotation.
“The bill says any recommendations made by the authority will be binding on all states within the river basin. This clause is highly objectionable. The Centre can’t undo the problem of the 1956 Act by making it binding on states. It will, in fact, lead to more disputes,” said environmentalist and river expert Manoj Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
The proposed River Basin Management Bill seeks to set up 13 River Basin Authorities, including Ganga, Krishna & Godavari, Raj Shekhar Jha & Somreet Bhattacharya