- To resolve differences among States on sharing water from rivers that are common to them, the Union Water Ministry has proposed creating 13 river basin management authorities.
The inter-State basins to be covered under the proposed legislation are:
- Brahmaputra, Barak and other rivers in the North East; Brahmani-Baitarini; Cauvery; Ganga; Godavari; Indus; Krishna; Mahanadi; Mahi; Narmada; Pennar; Subarnrekha and Tapi.
- Each authority will have a governing council, to be made of the chief ministers and the water ministers of the basin States. Every year the council would be chaired by one of the chief ministers.
- There would be a separate executive board to administer the decisions taken regarding the management of the basin. A key responsibility of the authority would be to constitute a river basin management plan that would dictate the construction of reservoirs and their management as well as the extraction of water during various seasons.
- A key innovation, said a person familiar with the development of the scheme was to have States in charge of managing their water by mutual consensus.
- “This plan has been 10 years in the making and has never taken off because States felt the Centre was imposing itself on them….now with CMs themselves heading the council, there shouldn’t be a problem,” the person added. The draft River Basin Management Bill, as it is called, was first formed in 2016 and circulated to States for their views.
November 5 deadline
- This is the first time the draft has been opened up for public consultations, the deadline for which is November 5. “The draft River Basin Management Bill proposes optimum development of inter-State rivers by facilitating inter-State coordination ensuring scientific planning of land and water resources taking basin/sub-basin as unit with unified perspectives of water in all its forms (including soil moisture, ground and surface water) and ensuring comprehensive and balanced development of both catchment and command areas,” says a note accompanying the proposal.
- An independent water expert said the Bill would facilitate large inter-basin transfers and was a way for the Centre to have a greater say in the State’s water management.
- “For instance, Tamil Nadu isn’t part of the Godavari basin. But there are plans to transfer Godavari water to Tamil Nadu and thus, Tamil Nadu now becomes part of the Godavari basin. These could lead to even more disputes among States,” said Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams Rivers and People.