Context: Despite the passage of nine years since the bifurcation of the combined state, the ongoing dispute between Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) and Telangana regarding the allocation of water from the Krishna river remains unresolved.
What is the origin of the Krishna water dispute?
- The water dispute between Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) and Telangana traces back to the formation of Andhra Pradesh in November 1956.
- Before the formation of Andhra Pradesh, a Gentlemen’s Agreement was signed in February 1956, which aimed to protect Telangana’s interests in water resource utilization and ensure equitable distribution based on global treaties.
- However, the focus on irrigation facilities by the combined dispensation was predominantly on Andhra, neglecting the drought-prone areas in Telangana that had already suffered due to the development of water systems by the British.
- In 1969, the Bachawat Tribunal (KWDT-I) was established to resolve water sharing disputes among Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh (prior to bifurcation).
- The Tribunal allocated 811 tmcft dependable water to Andhra Pradesh, which was later divided in a 512:299 tmcft ratio between Andhra (including parts of Rayalaseema which comprise the Krishna Basin) and Telangana respectively, based on the command area developed or utilization mechanism established at that time.
- The Tribunal also recommended utilizing water from the Tungabhadra Dam( a part of the Krishna Basin) for the drought-prone Mahabubnagar area in Telangana, but this recommendation was not implemented, leading to growing discontent.
- Telangana has repeatedly voiced its grievances, highlighting the perceived injustices in water resource distribution within Andhra Pradesh.
What was the arrangement for water sharing after the bifurcation?
- The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 did not specify water shares as the KWDT-I Award was still in effect and had not made any region-wise allocation.
- In 2015, a meeting organized by the Ministry of Water Resources resulted in an ad hoc arrangement for water sharing between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
- The agreement set a ratio of 34:66 (Telangana : A.P.) for sharing water, and it was stipulated that the arrangement would be reviewed annually.
- The focus of the Act was primarily on the management of water resources, leading to the establishment of the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB).
- Despite opposition from Telangana, the KRMB continued to maintain the same 34:66 ratio for water sharing year after year.
- In October 2020, Telangana demanded an equal share of water until a final water-sharing agreement was reached.
- In a recent board meeting, Telangana firmly insisted on an equal share and refused to continue with the existing arrangement.
- As the member states could not reach a consensus, the matter has been referred to the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) for resolution.
What does each State claim?
Claims by Telangana:
- Telangana asserts its right to a larger share of water based on global norms and agreements followed for sharing river waters.
- Telangana has been asking the Centre to finalise water shares from day one of its formation. Citing treaties and agreements followed globally in sharing river waters.
- Telangana argues that, considering the basin parameters, it is entitled to at least a 70% share in the allocation of the 811 tmcft of water.
- Telangana highlights how Andhra Pradesh has been diverting around 300 tmcft of water from fluoride-affected and drought-prone areas within the basin in Telangana to areas outside the basin.
Claims by Andhra Pradesh:
- Andhra Pradesh claims a higher share of water to protect the interests of command areas that have already been developed.
What is the stand of the Centre?
- The Centre has convened two meetings of the Apex Council, which includes the Union Minister and Chief Ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, in 2016 and 2020 to address the water-sharing issue.
- However, the Centre has not taken any concrete steps to resolve the dispute, and the issue remains unresolved.
- In 2020, the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) suggested that the matter of water shares be referred to a Tribunal, leading Telangana to withdraw its petition from the Supreme Court with the assurance that the Ministry would address the issue.
- Despite this, the Centre has not taken any significant action on the matter for over two years.
- As a result, the two states continue to engage in ongoing disputes and disagreements regarding water sharing without a clear resolution.
Inter-state Water Tribunals
- Article 262 of the Constitution provides for the adjudication of interstate water disputes.
- It makes two provisions:
(i) Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute
or complaint with respect to the use, distribution and control of
waters of any inter-state river and river valley.
(ii) Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor
any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such
dispute or complaint.
- Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted two laws [the River Boards Act (1956) and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956)].
- The River Boards Act provides for the establishment of river boards for the regulation and development of inter-state river and river valleys. A river board is established by the Central government on the request of the state governments concerned to advise them.
- The Inter-State Water Disputes Act empowers the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to the waters of an inter-state river or river valley. The decision of the tribunal would be final and binding on the parties to the dispute. Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to have jurisdiction in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to such a tribunal under this Act.
IMPORTANT HIGHLIGHTS – INTER-STATE RIVER WATER DISPUTES ACT, 1956
- Request by States to Centre to refer river water sharing dispute to the Tribunal.
- Notification in official gazette of Tribunal by Centre within 1 year of request.
- Investigation and Submission of Report by Tribunal to the centre and disputing states.
- Publication of Decision of Tribunal in the Official Gazette.
- Decision of the Tribunal is final and binding on the parties to the dispute.
- Dissolution of Tribunal by Central Government after it forwards its report and when Centre is satisfied that no further reference to the Tribunal would be
- Supreme Court or any other Court shall NOT have jurisdiction in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to a Tribunal under this Act.
CONCERNS & PROBLEMS – INTER-STATE RIVER WATER DISPUTES ACT, 1956
- No timeline has been provided in the Act for completion of the Award.
- No mechanism for negotiation prior to constitution of Tribunal.
- Delay in notifying of Tribunal’s decision (Award) by the Centre – perpetuates disputes.
- Continuous River-Water disputes fuels animosity and furthers regionalism.
- Formation of new state (Telangana) further aggravates river-water sharing.
- Hesitation of Centre in constituting Tribunal leads to judicial intervention – Example –Tribunal constituted to settle Mahadayi River water dispute.
Non-adherence of Award by the Tribunal is another concern as hardly states agree on the award and approach Supreme Court for final hearing.
- The Krishna River originates in the Western Ghats near Mahabaleshwar in the state of Maharashtra in central India.
- It is the third-longest river in India, after the Ganges and Godavari. It is also the fourth-largest in terms of water inflows and river basin area in India, after the Ganges, Indus and Godavari.
- It is a major source of irrigation in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
- Its principal tributaries include the Ghataprabha River, Malaprabha River, Bhima River, Tungabhadra River and Musi River. The Bhima River is the longest tributary of the Krishna River.