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Centre and State Powers over Water Resources

Oct 20, 2022

Centre and State Powers over Water Resources

Today we will discuss Centre and State Powers over Water Resources in our daily edition of Current Affairs. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.

For Prelims: the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, 1956, Water Disputes Tribunal, Cauvery dispute (Karnataka-Tamil Nadu), Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Punjab-Haryana).

For Mains: Central and State Powers on Water Resources, Centre and inter-State river dispute, Resolution of Water Disputes, Major River Disputes in India.

Probable Question

Water has been deemed a fundamental resource and the Centre and States have been tasked to make policies to distribute water among people. Comment.


The Chief Minister of Delhi has recently urged the Centre to resolve the long pending dispute of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal issue between the State of Punjab and Haryana.

About Central and State Powers on Water Resource

  • The right to clean drinking water has been read into the right to life under Article 21 of the constitution. 
  • Water has been deemed a fundamental resource and the Centre and States have been tasked to make policies to distribute water among people.
  • Article 246: The Centre’s exclusive power to make laws under List I of the Seventh Schedule:
    • Decide on shipping and navigation on inland and tidal (sea) waterways and on national waterways for vessels.
    • Regulate training and education of mercantile marines by states and other agencies.
    • Decide on goods, and passengers by sea or national waterways via mechanically propelled vessels.
    • Regulate and develop interstate rivers and river valleys.
    • Decide on fishing and fisheries beyond territorial waters.
  • Power with States:
    • Develop roads, bridges, ferries, municipal tramways, ropeways, and other means of communication on inland waterways in the State
    • Decide on water supply, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage, and water power
    • Taxes on goods and passengers carried by road or on inland waterways
    • Decide on shipping and navigation on inland waterways via mechanically propelled vessels and carriage of passengers and goods on such waters

Centre and inter-State River Disputes

  • The powers of the Centre and State as far as shipping and navigation on inland waterways are concerned are overlapping. 
  • The development of water supplies, canals, and riverbanks is also an area of conflict between States.
  • One of the major water-related issues tasked to the Centre, inter-State river disputes in India are governed by the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, of 1956. 

Resolution of Water Disputes

  • As per the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, of 1956, any State may request the Centre for adjudication. 
  • The water Disputes Tribunal can also be set up to resolve the dispute within 3 years (can be extended up to 2 years), by the Centre.
  • All decisions of the Tribunal are final and binding.
  • The Centre may create a scheme to give effect to the decision of such a tribunal. It is also tasked with maintaining a data bank of each river basin in the country.
  • In 2019, an amendment to the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, 1956 was passed by the Lok Sabha, but is yet to get the Upper House’s nod:
    • It dissolves all existing Tribunals and transfers ongoing disputes to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal. 
    • Constitution of a Disputes Resolution Committee: 
      • For any river dispute with Central government members, experts, and members of each party State.
      • To resolve the issue within a year, which may be extended by six months.
    • Disputes unresolved by the committee: 
      • A Tribunal that comprises Central government ministers or nominees and a Supreme Court Judge will resolve it in a year. 
      • The Tribunal’s decision will be final and binding on the parties involved. 
    • The Centre is mandated to create a scheme to implement the Tribunal’s decision.

Major River Disputes in India

  • Cauvery dispute (Karnataka-Tamil Nadu): The Cauvery River issue since 1924, on the allocation of water to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry. 
  • Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Punjab-Haryana): 
    • The rivers Ravi and Beas water was split between Rajasthan, undivided Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir after independence. 
    • After the 1966 reorganization of Punjab resulted in the creation of Haryana, the new state was allocated 3.5 MAF per year, which caused dispute as Punjab sought to retain its share.
  • Polavaram project dispute (Andhra Pradesh-Telangana): this issue also resulted after the formation of Telangana in 2014.

Also Read: The Indus Water Treaty

State-level and Local-Levelwater issues

  • On a State level, each government forms laws for water management across its districts to regulate water usage by industries, like:
    • The Haryana Water Resources (Conservation, Regulation, and Management) Authority Act, 2020.
    • The Karnataka government passed the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 2021. 
    • States like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have passed irrigation and water conservation laws to stop river pollution, specify limits on water supply for irrigating crops and penalize those who violate these norms.
  • Local-level issues fall under the purview of the various civic bodies managed by the state governments. 

News Source: The Hindu

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