Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

Government to bring law to resolve inter-water disputes

The News

  • The Centre is gearing up to bring a new law for resolving inter-state water disputes and for that the ministry has recently released a draft of the River Basin Management bill, 2018.



  • Considering the inter-state river water disputes, the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission’s 7th Report titled “Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution-Fiction to Fusion” (February 2008), had recommended that the River Basin Organisations (RBOs) should be set up for each inter-State river.
  • It was based on the proposal in the Report of the National Commission for Integrated Water resources Development, 1999 which recommended for enacting legislation to replace the River Boards Act, 1956.
  • The Ministry after holding detailed deliberations has come out with draft River Basin Management Bill, 2018.


About the draft River Basin Management Bill, 2018

  • It will be introduced during the winter session of Parliament.
  • 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 bill is seeking to speed up inter-state river water dispute resolution among states and manage affairs of 13 river basins across the country through an exclusive Master Plan for each of them.
  • 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 chief ministers of all states within particular basin.
  • The authority will provide the chief ministers of river basin states a forum to discuss all the issues.
  • 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- Barak-inter-state rivers of north-east.
  • 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 the CMs of the basin states, by rotation.
  • Any recommendations made by the authority will be binding on all states within the river basin, except those concerning sharing of inter-state river waters.
  • The dispute between two or more states will go to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal only if governing council of the concerned authority fails to address it.
  • Each authority will ensure a River Basin Master Plan which will have all elements concerning management of water resources within the basin.
  • It includes hydrological assessment, ground water, aquifers, protected areas, flood control, drainage and economic analysis of allocation of water.


Significance of the proposed bill

  • The draft River Basin Management Bill proposes optimum development of inter-State rivers by facilitating inter-State coordination ensuring scientific planning of land and water resources taking basin/sub-basin as unit with unified perspectives of water in all its forms (including soil moisture, ground and surface water).
  • It will ensure comprehensive and balanced development of both catchment and command areas.
  • It is expected that enactment of the proposed legislation would result in optimum integrated development and management of inter-State River waters with basin approach and will result in change of environment from the one of conflicts to that of cooperation.


  • The clause related to binding decision of the authority is highly objectionable.
  • The Centre cannot undo the problem of the 1956 Act by making it binding on states, it may, in fact, lead to more disputes.


Way forward

  • Instead of making a single decision of the authority binding, there should be efforts for consensus building.
  • Every state whether small or big in the river basin must be given says in discussions and decision making.
  • The decisions should be politically neutral and based on the genuine requirement of the states.
  • Proper assessment of resource requirement by various stakeholders in different states should be done before taking any decision.

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