Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu backs Centre’s move to set up single water disputes tribunal


BACKING THE central government’s proposal to set up a single permanent tribunal to settle all inter-state water disputes, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Friday said tussles over water sharing could turn “very dangerous” if not resolved in time.

“There is nothing wrong with the central government’s decision. There are so many separate tribunals (as of now) and they create problems. I think it is a very good decision. Because we have to sort out all our water disputes on a priority,” Naidu said after initiating concrete works at the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project in his state.

The Union Cabinet earlier this month gave its approval for setting up a permanent tribunal to adjudicate on all inter-state disputes on river waters, doing away with the current practice of constituting a separate tribunal for every dispute that arises. The central government plans to introduce a Bill in Parliament in the budget session to amend the Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 to allow for the setting up of a permanent tribunal, and a few regional benches, if required.

The Polavaram project, which seeks to provide irrigation benefits to 6.14 lakh hectares besides producing hydropower with an installed capacity of 960 MW, was itself conceived as a result of a recommendation by the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal that had finalised its award in 1980. The current implementation of the project is also not without problems, with both Odisha and Chhattisgarh raising objections over fears that parts of their areas will be inundated.

Naidu acknowledged that the two states had “problems” with the project but said these were not full blown water disputes. “They have problems but these will be settled. I have spoken to the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. It will be sorted out. Polavaram is a national project. It will create national wealth, employment and food security for the people,” he said.

Naidu did not seem to have any objection to the proposal to bring water in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, a subject on which both the central and the state governments can legislate. Currently, water is a state subject. He said the Centre would need to convince states on this.

“Water is a very sensitive issue. If you create a sentiment that is adverse, there can be very big problems. We have seen how countries are fighting, regions are fighting, states are fighting over water. It can get very dangerous,” he said.

Naidu said inter-linking of rivers, to enable transfers of waters from surplus basin to deficient basin, must be implemented to solve water scarcity in certain regions in certain seasons. He said a network of rivers needed to be built just like a national electricity grid.