Single tribunal to decide all inter-state water disputes

New Delhi : The Centre has decided to set up a single, permanent Tribunal to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes subsuming existing tribunals, a step which is aimed at resolving grievances of states in a speedy manner.

Besides the Tribunal, the government has also proposed to float some benches by amending the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 to look into disputes as and when required. Unlike the Tribunal, the benches will cease to exist once the disputes are resolved.

A decision to approve an amendment to the Act was taken at the Union Cabinet’s meeting held earlier this week. The amendment is likely to be introduced in Parliament in its next session.

“There will be only one permanent Tribunal with retired Supreme Court judge as its chairperson. There will be benches formed as and when required. The benches though will be wound up once a dispute is resolve,” Water Resources Ministry secretary Shashi Shekhar said.

Earlier, Shekhar said, water tribunals “took ages” to deliver final awards into disputes, where as the proposed Tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict during a span of three years.

Along with the Tribunal, the amendment proposes to set up Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC). The DRC, comprising experts and policy-makers, is proposed to handle disputes prior to the Tribunal.

“…whenever a state will request, the Centre will set up a DRC. We expect, most disputes will get resolved at the DRC’s level itself. But if a state is not satisfied, it can approach the Tribunal,” he added.

In order to give more teeth to the Tribunal, it is proposed that whenever it gives order, the verdict gets notified automatically. Until now, the government required to notify the awards, causing delay in its implementation.

As per the current provisions of the 1956 Act, a tribunal can be formed after a state government approaches Union Government with such request and the Centre is convinced of the need to form the tribunal.

At present, there are eight Tribunals including those on Cauvery, Mahadayi, Ravi and Beas, Vansadhara and Krishna rivers.

The present year saw party states like Tamil Nadu and Karntaka (Cuavery basin), Goa-Karnataka-Maharashtra (Mahadayi) and also Odisha and Chhattisgarh (Mahanadi) sparring over sharing river water.