The Cauvery river (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry)
The row over the Cauvery river is over a century old when the British got Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to come to terms with dividing the river water. The agreement signed in 1924 lapsed in 1974. Tamil Nadu farmers approached the Supreme Court demanding a tribunal, which was set up in 1990. The tribunal gave an interim order asking Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, but in the absence of the government’s compliance, riots took place. In 2007, when once again the tribunal determined the state-wise distribution of Cauvery water, it failed to satisfy the states involved. Appeals continued and violence erupted now and then. Early this month, the Supreme Court took up Tamil Nadu’s petition over non-release of water by Karnataka. But when the government refused to comply, it took a violent turn.
The Krishna river (Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh)
Krishna river water dispute also has its roots in the colonial period. The river takes birth in the Mahadev Range of the Western Ghats, rising above sea level near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and flows across the peninsula from West to East before flowing into the Bay of Bengal. It also enters Karnataka and passes through the state, finally falling into the Bay of Bengal near Bapatla in Andhra Pradesh. It is about a disagreement on water sharing between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The government constituted the first Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal in 1969 and reconstituted it in 2004. While the issue was resolved in 2010, it saw a new twist with the formation of Telangana as a separate state, as it gave way to a fresh tussle between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
The Mullaperiyar dam (Tamil Nadu and Kerala)
In 1886, the British (Madras presidency) built Mullaperiyar dam with a lease agreement with the Kingdom of Travancore for 999 years. In 1970, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ratified the agreement. In the mid-1970s, Kerala worried about leakage from the dam and Tamil Nadu repaired it. Kerala felt the dam wasn’t strong enough and tried erecting a new dam over the Periyar river, but Tamil Nadu managed to block it. Even though the Mullaperiyar dam site is in Kerala, it is leased to Tamil Nadu, which operates the dam and wants to increase the water level. Kerala has opposed it. In 2006, the Supreme Court allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the water height after strengthening the dam, but Kerala passed a law to prevent it. In 2014, the federal government set up a committee to supervise the issue.
The Godavari river (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra)
The Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal observed that the states were free to utilise the flow of the Godavari or its tributaries, but only up to certain specified points. Accordingly, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra were allotted certain fixed quotas of the water flowing in the river. In 2005, Andhra Pradesh complained against Maharashtra citing the construction of Babhali barrage over the river. Even though it’s inside Maharashtra, the construction site falls in the backwaters of Pochampad dam, a major source of water for then Andhra Pradesh’s Telangana region. Fearing it would deprive the state of its legal quota of river water, in 2006, Andhra Pradesh filed a suit against Maharashtra. The Supreme Court allowed Maharashtra to construct the barrage at its own risk and directed the state not to install gates in the barrage. The matter is sub judice.
Sardar Sarovar dam (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan)
The foundation stone of the 162-foot-high dam on the Narmada in Gujarat was laid in 1961. Considered too small a project, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh reached an agreement in 1963 to build a 425-foot-high Sardar Sarovar dam. Later, a committee constituted by the central government instead recommended a 500-foot-high dam. It fitted in with the vision of Gujarat, which wanted to carry Narmada waters to remote areas. But it was unacceptable to Madhya Pradesh, as the project was to be built at its cost and the larger displacement would take place in the state. The dispute was referred to the Tribunal, which in 1979 recommended a 455-foot dam and apportioned the respective share in water to Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Meanwhile, social activist Medha Patkar opposed the construction on ecological, grounds. The case is hanging.
The Satluj-Yamuna Link canal (Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan)
The SYL canal was supposed to share the water of the Ravi and Beas after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. However, Punjab has been regularly opposing it. In 1981, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi negotiated a tripartite agreement between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan of recalculating the supplies from the two rivers for their states. Work began on the canal in 1985. But even as 90 per cent of the work was completed in 1990, it sparked violence and the escalating turmoil forced Punjab to stop the work. In 2002, the Supreme Court issued a directive to the Punjab government to complete the canal, but in 2004, the Punjab State Legislature passed the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act to de-notify the land. The Act was referred to the Supreme Court.
The Ravi and Beas rivers (Punjab and Haryana)
There’s an ongoing battle in the Supreme Court between Punjab and Haryana over the Ravi-Beas water-sharing dispute. The Punjab government recently questioned Haryana’s entitlement to water saying if it can receive water under a 1981 Agreement without sharing its boundary with the rivers, Punjab too must be entitled to receive water from the Yamuna on the same condition. Haryana has been allocated waters of the Ravi-Beas under Section 78 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act 1966, whereas Punjab has been denied the Yamuna water on account of the fact that it is not a riparian state of the Yamuna. The affidavit filed by the Punjab government says if the Ravi-Beas water is considered for distribution between the two states, the Yamuna water should also figure in any scheme for equitable distribution among Punjab and Haryana.
The Yamuna river (Delhi and Haryana)
A solution to the problem of sharing the Yamuna water continues to elude Delhi and Haryana even as the river dries up. The Munal canal is a part of the larger Western Yamuna Canal that takes off from the Hathnikund barrage, built on the upper stretches of the Yamuna. This barrage was planned with World Bank assistance, to replace an ageing barrage in the 1990s, after the Yamuna’s five riparian states — Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh — signed the Upper Yamuna water-sharing agreement. Haryana, through the dam at Hathnikund, is in a position to control how much water will flow downstream through the Western Yamuna Canal. While Delhi has as much right to the river as Haryana, it does not get enough supply to its water treatment plants from Haryana, despite the 1996 Supreme Court order.
The Barak river (Assam and Manipur)
This conflict comes with an international dimension. The Barak River originates in Manipur and ends in India’s neighbouring country, Bangladesh, crossing through Assam. The discovery of oil reservoirs in Manipur near the source of the river ignited bickering between Manipur and Assam. This threatened to pollute the Barak through its tributaries, further leading to concerns about pollution. In addition, the proposal to build the Tipaimukh Dam flared up in both Manipur and Bangladesh in 2011, owing to concerns of water rights, displacement and adverse environmental impacts. Bangladesh raised concerns over water drainage on farms and impact on hydrology, while domestic impacts included National Highway 53, being partially submerged. Efforts are on to resolve disputes through negotiations among the basin states with the assistance of the Central government.