Cen­tre to bring law to re­solve in­ter-state wa­ter dis­putes

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Vishwa.Mo­han @times­group.com

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

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