The Union Cabinet approved the setting up of a tribunal to settle a row between Odisha and Chhattisgarh on sharing the waters of the Mahanadi river.
Supreme Court directed the Centre to set up a tribunal in response to a plea by the Odisha government to stop the Chhattisgarh government from constructing several weirs on the river.
The order on constituting a new tribunal comes even as the government plans to introduce a new bill that would have a single tribunal to replace all existing water tribunals.
Odisha had moved the court in December, 2016, for an order asking Chhattisgarh to stop its construction work in projects on the upstream of Mahanadi, saying it affected the river flow in the State.
What are Odisha's concerns?
- Odisha is arguing that Chhattisgarh has been constructing dams and weirs (small dams)upstream the Mahanadi river.
- This is being allegedly carried on by the Chhattisgarh government without consulting Odisha.
- Odisha says this would affect the flow of the river downstream and affect drinking water supply.
- Also, it would impact the irrigation facilities in Odisha and adversely affect the interests of the farmers.
- It is also alleged that Chhattisgarh would utilise water far in excess of the equitable share of the waters of Mahanadi.
- Moreover, the weirs and other projects would impact the flow of water in the Hirakud reservoir, a multipurpose river valley project, which is a lifeline for many in the state.
What tribunal do?
The tribunal is expected to determine water sharing among basin States on the basis of the overall availability of water in the complete Mahanadi basin, the contribution of each State, the present utilisation of water resource in each State and the potential for future development
Constitutional provisions for tribunal:
- Tribunals were added in the Constitution by Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 as Part XIV-A, which has only two articles viz. 323-A and 323-B.
- While article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals;
- article 323-B deals with tribunals for other matters.
- In general sense, the ‘tribunals’ are not courts of normal jurisdiction, but they have very specific and predefined work area.
- The administrative tribunals are not original invention of the Indian Political System.
- They are well established in all democratic countries of Europe as well as United States of America.
- The Mahanadi is a major river in East Central India.
- The river flows through the states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
- Enters the Bay of Bengal at Dhamra.
- Hirakud dam constructed on it
- called 'the sorrow of Orissa'.
- Under the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 a tribunal can be formed to resolve water disputes.
- A tribunal could be formed if a state government requests the Centre and the Centre is convinced of the need to form the tribunal.
- Odisha has long been demanding the formation of a tribunal for resolving the Mahanadi river water dispute.
- However, notably only three out of the eight existing tribunals have given awards accepted by the states concerned.
- The Centre has recently put forward the idea of a permanent tribunal to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes for speedy resolution.
- Materialising this idea could be a solution to the Mahanadi River Water Dispute and many such water disputes among different states.