Cauvery Water Dispute: Issue, Law

  Aug 26, 2023

Cauvery River Water Sharing Dispute:The Issue,Constitution and Law

Article 262 of the Constitution of India:

Article 262 holds importance in resolving disputes related to the distribution of water resources among states, particularly in the context of inter-state rivers.
It grants the authority to Parliament to intervene and provide solutions to disputes that arise over the use, control, and sharing of water from inter-state rivers and river valleys.
The President of India can establish an Inter-State Council to investigate and settle such water-sharing disputes and ensure equitable solutions.

Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956:

The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956, was enacted to address conflicts between states concerning the distribution of river waters.
This legislation outlines the legal framework for resolving water-sharing disputes and ensures that states can seek a fair and impartial resolution.
The Act empowers the central government to constitute a tribunal when negotiations between states fail to yield a resolution.
The tribunal's decision is binding and enforceable, and it plays a crucial role in resolving disputes fairly.

Resolving the Cauvery Water Sharing Dispute:

The Cauvery River water sharing dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is a prominent example of a conflict addressed using the provisions of Article 262 and the Interstate River Water Disputes Act.
The dispute revolved around the sharing of the Cauvery River's waters, which flows through both states and is vital for irrigation and other purposes.
The central government constituted the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal to adjudicate the dispute, demonstrating the Act's mechanism in action.
The tribunal's award, which determines the allocation of water between the two states, is legally binding and has implications for both parties.
The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) award, announced on February 5, 2007, aimed to address the contentious issue of sharing Cauvery River waters among the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry (Union Territory). The verdict outlined the allocation of water, mechanisms for seasonal releases, and the establishment of oversight bodies to ensure equitable distribution. However, the implementation process has encountered various challenges and contingencies, including drought and delayed rains, which have led to ongoing disputes and legal battles among the concerned states.

CWDT Award:

Allocation of Water: The CWDT determined the share of water that each state would receive from the Cauvery River. The allocations were based on factors such as geographical location, water availability, and historical use.
Seasonal Release: The award provided a schedule for the release of water during different seasons to meet the irrigation, drinking water, and agricultural needs of the states. This allocation aimed to prevent conflicts and ensure equitable sharing.
Monitoring Bodies: To oversee the implementation of the award, the CWDT established the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC). These bodies were responsible for supervising water release as per the prescribed schedules.

Challenges and Contingencies:

Drought: One of the major challenges faced by the states is drought, which can lead to water scarcity and reduced availability for irrigation and other purposes. Drought conditions often result in disputes over water allocation and release.
Delayed Rains: Delayed monsoon rains can affect water levels in the Cauvery River and its reservoirs. When rains are delayed, the states may face difficulties in adhering to the scheduled release of water, leading to conflicts.
Disputes and Legal Battles: Despite the CWDT's efforts to provide a fair distribution mechanism, disagreements and legal battles have persisted over the years. The states have often disagreed on the quantum of water to be released, especially during times of water shortage.
Supreme Court Intervention: The disputes arising from the implementation of the CWDT award have led to the involvement of the Supreme Court of India. The apex court has played a role in mediating conflicts, issuing directives, and ensuring compliance with the award.

The Issue Today

Q1: What is the ongoing situation concerning Cauvery river water?

Tamil Nadu has approached the Supreme Court seeking assistance in securing its share of water from the Cauvery river.

 Q2: Why is there a conflict between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka regarding Cauvery river water?

A dispute has arisen over the allocation of water between these two states, as each contends for their rightful share from the Cauvery river.

Q3: Why is the urgency in seeking judicial intervention?

Legal representatives have emphasized the urgency of obtaining Cauvery river water quickly to sustain growing crops.

Q4: What is the significance of constituting a Bench?

A panel of judges, known as a Bench, will be formed to hear the appeal and determine the appropriate action to take.

Q5: What specific request has been made regarding Cauvery water?

Tamil Nadu is urging Karnataka to promptly release a certain amount of Cauvery river water to meet their irrigation needs.

Q6: Why is this water release particularly crucial?

The water is required to irrigate actively growing crops and address agricultural needs.

Q7: Is there a more extended plan beyond the immediate water release?

Tamil Nadu is requesting adherence to a predefined water-sharing plan for the following month, as established by a special court.

Q8: What is the purpose of seeking compensation for the shortfall in water supply?

Tamil Nadu contends that Karnataka should compensate for the deficiency in water supply during a specific period.

Q9: How does the Water Management Authority fit into this situation?

The involvement of the Water Management Authority is sought to ensure compliance with the rules governing the equitable distribution of Cauvery river water.

Q10: Why is the mention of a specific month significant in the request?

Compliance with a water-sharing plan for that month, as defined by a special court, is desired to uphold a fair distribution of water resources.

Q11: Why do disputes over river water allocation arise between states?

These disputes stem from the scarcity of water, a finite resource used for various purposes such as agriculture and drinking water. States sometimes differ in their perceptions of how to equitably allocate this precious resource.

Role of Mandamus:

In the context of the Cauvery water dispute, the concept of "mandamus" becomes significant. Mandamus is a legal remedy that can be sought from a higher court, such as the Supreme Court, to compel a lower authority, in this case, the states involved, to perform a legal duty. If the states fail to adhere to the water-sharing schedule or the directives of the CWDT or the Supreme Court, affected parties can seek a writ of mandamus to compel them to fulfill their obligations.
The Supreme Court's use of mandamus reflects its authority to ensure that the CWDT award and its provisions are enforced and implemented. The issuance of a writ of mandamus can direct the states to release the stipulated amount of water, especially during critical times such as drought or delayed rains, ensuring that the interests of all stakeholders are upheld.
In conclusion, the Cauvery water dispute's complexity is exacerbated by challenges like drought, delayed rains, and ongoing disputes. The concept of mandamus serves as a legal tool that can be invoked to enforce compliance with the CWDT award and to ensure that the states fulfill their obligations for equitable water distribution. The evolving nature of the dispute underscores the importance of continued dialogue, cooperation, and legal mechanisms to manage shared water resources effectively

Responsibilities of Upper Riparian States within the Country

An upper riparian state refers to a region located upstream along a river or watercourse within a country. This geographical positioning carries significant responsibilities for managing water resources in a way that promotes equitable usage, prevents conflicts, and ensures the sustainable well-being of both upstream and downstream areas. Here are the key responsibilities of upper riparian states within their own country:
Equitable Allocation: Upper riparian states must allocate water resources fairly among various regions and users within their own boundaries. This includes considering the water needs of downstream areas.
Avoiding Harm: It is the responsibility of upper riparian states to take measures to prevent causing harm to downstream areas through actions such as excessive water extraction, pollution, or degradation of aquatic ecosystems.
Transparency: Upper riparian states should provide transparent information about their water allocation policies, water usage, and management strategies. This transparency helps build trust among different regions and users within the state.
Planning and Regulation: Developing effective water management plans and regulations is essential. These plans should take into account the interests of both upper and lower riparian areas, fostering balanced and sustainable water use.
Infrastructure Development: When constructing water-related infrastructure, such as dams or reservoirs, upper riparian states should carefully assess the potential impacts on downstream areas. This includes considering changes in water availability and maintaining ecological balance.
Environmental Protection: Upholding water quality, protecting aquatic ecosystems, and conserving biodiversity are paramount. Maintaining a healthy environment is vital for sustainable water management and the well-being of downstream regions.
Stakeholder Participation: Involving local communities, downstream users, and other stakeholders in water-related decision-making processes ensures that their concerns and needs are considered and integrated into management strategies.
Emergency Preparedness: Upper riparian states should be prepared to respond to emergencies such as floods or droughts. Cooperation with downstream areas is essential to minimize negative impacts during such events.
Conflict Resolution: Addressing disputes over water use within the state through negotiation, mediation, or legal mechanisms is vital to prevent tensions among different regions and stakeholders.
Cooperation with Downstream States: While primarily responsible for their own water resources, upper riparian states should collaborate with downstream states to manage shared water bodies and address transboundary challenges.
Water Conservation: Promoting efficient water use practices, adopting water-saving technologies, and implementing conservation measures contribute to sustainable water management and benefit both upper and lower riparian areas.
Monitoring and Data Sharing: Collecting and sharing accurate data on water flow, quality, and usage within the state enhances informed decision-making and enables timely identification of potential issues.
Public Awareness: Raising awareness among citizens about responsible water use and the consequences of water-related decisions fosters a culture of conservation and sustainable water practices.
Compliance with Laws: Upper riparian states must adhere to national water laws and regulations, ensuring that their water management practices align with legal requirements.
Long-Term Planning: Developing comprehensive, long-term strategies for water resource management ensures that the needs of current and future generations are met sustainably, fostering intergenerational equity.
Balancing the needs of upstream and downstream areas requires upper riparian states to take proactive steps, prioritize collaboration, and adopt practices that uphold the principles of fairness, sustainability, and responsible water stewardship.


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