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This article generally talks about the major and contemporary issue which is in a process to kill the Indian federal structure. It also revolves through Article 262 of the Indian Constitution and the Water Dispute Act, 1956 mechanism to tackle the river water related problems. The role of the Parliament and the judicial review of the Supreme Court were in vague as States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana went against each other and vehemently opposed to each other’s river water projects. The final and firm decision of the Centre made it effective and the jurisdiction over the waters are to be utilized in a reliable way. The River Boards’ criteria of undertaking projects of constructing numerous dams, irrigational mechanisms and canal strategies have given quite hopeful works that would enrich in using the river waters. The article also focuses the historical and politically issues attached to the water dispute purpose and the set up of tribunals which led a great aid in providing huge relief to the disputed states.


India is a multi-diversified country with boundless land of 2.4% of the total world and has most of its water availability as compared to other countries of the world but due to its high crowded population, apiece of people getting regular availability of the water is very less and little in amount (according to the 2019 report). Due to the continuous increase in the number of population and uneven distribution of rainfall accompanied by various other different geographical and climatic prime reasons poses a big threat to the storage, collection and harvesting of water resource processes. India has downright 25 river basins which flows through almost in every States, rivers are the key sources of water so they are in agreement bound by laws and policies between the States and Centre. India is a federal country having ministerial framework urgently needs the protection, reservation, equal division of water among states and most importantly justifiable use of it. All these processes and stages requires the Central Government interference to solve out these water-related issues.[1]

Inland water disputes in this contemporary world have been the top rising problem, which in a way includes disputes relating to rights over property, management policies of ecosystem, fluvial of water constructive methods and economical approaches of food reliability. These conflicts have its relevancy since Pre-Independence bounded by political, historical and numerous other fields. The root cause lies in the huge difference between rural prone areas and urban sectors comprising of uneven political ideas and controversies which is giving great impact to the ecological balance system. [2]The proposal of the River Basin management Bill, 2018 lend a helping hand in curtailing these obstacles for the better improvisation the inter-state water management. Currently, there has been a lot betterment in the water sector field by adopting various procedures, advanced technologies and methods to use water sources sustainably. Greater than 80% of the water in India comprised of inland basin, so it is quiet absolute that ongoing disputes on the use of river water is the usual phenomenon in India is a complete valid one, recently the squabble over the utilisation of the river waters of Yamuna River among the Sates of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh came into peace by a reliable and negotiable agreement of among the three Chief Ministers with the help of the Union government. The Krishna-Godavari, Narmada, Cauvery are the most attentive rageous conflicts of the Indian sub-continent. It stands as such that when the river flows through the states, one state cannot possess sole authority over it, it cannot frame any laws or execute it beyond its jurisdiction. In taking Article 262 the Indian Constitution openly talks about the setting up of tribunals to end up the conflicts of inland water basins and equitable use of river waters and the matters is to involve the Union government in between fights among the states. The Indian Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court to deal with such issues involving question law or fact which determines the extensive rights. Later, the role of Parliament came into the scene and the establishment of tribunals generally excluded the Supreme Court to participate in these conflicts. [3]

Therefore, the incontrovertible adjudication of water related issues plays over the constitutional arrangements of Indian Constitution and the structural framed legal polices to which this article normally focus its attention on the long dispute of Krishna and Godavari river basins.


BEFORE 1947:


The inland water disputes in the British period were resolved by the Governor in Council with Secretary of State as its head who was the main controller of the conflict. It was a mandatory task of every provincial government to attain the Secretary’s approval before undertaking any matter relating to water issues, even in the cases of withdrawing more five million amounts of rupees for the development or construction purposes of any water related strategy.


Prior to the operation of the Act 1919, irrigation was the subject matter of the Centre. Then after the Act of 1919 it was transferred to the State and state related disputes were begun get resolved by the Governor in Council under the Supreme control of the Secretary of the State.


In this era, the provinces will able to acquire the complete exercise of its control over the irrigation subject. All the water disputes factors were determined by coming into a mutual agreement governing various policies, basically resolved by the Governor General along with many expertise commissions under the Sections of 130-134 of the Government of India Act 1935.

But there was no proper permanent establishment of any medium in resolving the issues, before the formation of the Constituent Assembly, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar opined that water related conflicts are the biggest issues that India has to deal with forever if not any permanent pan India Tribunal is not set up, negotiating and setting up of various committee can only ruin the structure by dominating each other and becoming more autocratic and finally led to the incorporation of the Article 262 which gave power to the Parliament to exercise over the inter-state water disputes.


The Krishna river rises near Mahabaleshwar i.e., Satara in the State of Maharashtra and it flows through the States of Maharashtra, North Karnataka, and the remaining of its 1300 km part crosses Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and then drains into Bay of Bengal. River Krishna is considered to be the second widest river after Godavari because it originates in the Western Ghats and flows in eastward peninsular direction, finally drains into Bay of Bengal. Krishna forms the expansive basin by covering 33% of the total area of four states. Therefore, its heavy amount of water carriage made the four states to quarrel over it and their rights of adjudication. Krishna river water dispute has been marked as long ongoing dispute between the Hyderabad and Mysore states, then it became relevant between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. T bring the conflicting states into peaceful cooperation, in 1969, the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal (KWDT) was set up under the Government of India in accordance with the Inter-State Water Dispute Act of 1956, came to be known as the Bachawat Tribunal. The decision along with the report was delivered in December 1973, and again in May 1976 which made division of the Krishna river into three parts in thousand million cubic feet 560 TMC for Maharashtra, 700 TMC for Karnataka and 800 TMC for Andhra Pradesh respectively. In addition to this very importantly it was notified that in May 31, 2000 it may be revised. The main cause that started to revolve is that the rainfall is very unpredictable due to which many districts remain dry whereas in monsoon excess amount of water goes as a waste to the sea, as many of canals were unlined and not properly maintained because of fund issues. But in general, the Tribunal were in a quiet position regarding the non-riparian states.

Under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution Andhra Pradesh filed against the state of Karnataka for violating the norms of the decision by building up dams to a greater height which affected the residentials residing nearby and urgently urged for immediate relief. In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. State of Karnataka,[4] the Supreme Court made a very clear and transparent declaration that though the decision was delivered by the Tribunal it cannot interfere or adjudicate its rights on the Tribunals in such matters the parties facing issue should approach the existed Tribunal.

Similarly like the river Krishna, Godavari too is eastward peninsular flowing river, Godavari river originates from Trimbakeshwar which is near Nasik in the State of Maharashtra and has its total length 1465 km flowing a through and finally meets its source into Bay of Bengal. Its basin extends flowing across the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha and its little part flows through Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Union territory of Puducherry. Godavari being the widest river and carrying maximum of it flow led to the rise of dispute for utilising the water judiciously. So, in April 1969, The Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal under the head of Justice Bachawat by the Government of India for resolving the Godavari related issues. There were few bilateral and tripartite agreement for the efficiently use of the river up to a particular defined territory. Like Maharashtra was directed to flow in Godavari up to Paithan, in this way the States were directed to judiciously utilised the water. Two projects were undertaken namely Inchampally and Polavaram having Full Reservoir Levels in July, 1980. In the strategy of Polavaram Project 80 TMC diversion of water from the Godavari river to Krishna River upstream of Vijaywada Anicut. Inchampally Project was basically a tripartite agreement among the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, where 80 TMC of water was permitted to Andhra Pradesh to take out its diversion. In the 2010 report, Andhra Pradesh challenged by a special leave petition in 2011, which gave proper allocation to the States for the use of waters.

All the agreements made on the water related issues on Krishna and Godavari rivers should have the involvement of the Parliament through a framed legislation and between States.


Union Government of India plays a very vital role in keeping space with the conflict related river water among the states. The subject of irrigation and construction of barrages and dams are the sole responsibilities of the States to look into the disputes and its betterment. During the colonial rule, the Britishers had put some efforts by deploying the States into mechanism of river constructive strategy and its harvesting so that during monsoon the water does not go in waste, most of its policies were never got executed but out of its only the Godavari River Water Tribunal enables the states to utilise effectively. The National Hydro Power Corporation enterprise deals with the construction of the hydroelectric dams. The Government of India has also formed the Damodar Valley Corporation which activaley participates in flood management process and utilising the Damodar river basin in electricity purpose. Finally, the Ministry’s Central Water Corporation looks and deals to combat the conflicts between the States relating to water sharing issues.


The Constitution of India under the Article 262 has laid down that in relating to inter-state river water disputes the Parliament may by law as prescribed may adjudicate any river water related disputes, along with it can also look into the distribution of the rivers on the basis of territorial jurisdiction. Article 262 also clearly points out that relating to water dispute scenario neither the Supreme Court nor any Court can interfere into the matter. The Constitution of India has clearly included the disputes of inland river waters in the Entry 17 of List II and Entry 56 of List I independently. The power to make laws on any subject is divided between the Centre and States in accordingly mentioned in the Constitution. Entry 17 of List II is the dominant power of the Union over the states which says that all the water related disputes, harvesting of water, construction of dams and barrages along with various other developmental stages are enumerated under entry 56 of List I. This power is given to the Union because of the one whole reason that no state can individually own or exercise its sole powers over any river flowing across their states rather if the river is flowing between other states then they too also have their rights to use it. So, the entry 17 of List II simply concludes that the upper riparian states undertake any projects over the river which consequently effects the lower riparian states, powers cannot be exclusively given to the states independently. If any particular state single-handedly tries to control over a river without taking in consideration of the other lower riparian states then the situation goes into the state of war by the encroachment of the Article 2459(1), in order to make it settle, the of doctrine of harmonious construction as established between the entries respectively to avoid any conflict further.

The River Boards Act, 1956 was enacted and executed to synchronize and adjudicate the Inter-State rivers. The main aim was to assist and give proper recommendations to the State Governments in construction of dams to raise to a certain height and river valleys. The Boards are mainly constituted by the Central Government on the appeal of the State Government, so that the constituted board can five better advises to the States. Article 262, 263 and 131 are the articles that talks about the water related disputes but Article 131 can only be bring out on definite circumstances. The 1956 Act, solely gave more power to the Union Government to exercise its power over it. Article 245 plays a role in it as it says that there is limitation provided on the state governments to adjudicate within its territory beyond to which is strictly prohibited and when this article is read with article 246(3) which enshrines that states has the full exclusive power to adjudicate upon any subject under List II of the Seventh Schedule and some under List III, over their territory only and not beyond it. In spite of various construction of articles and doctrines still various disputes outside the territories among the states continues to go on.


Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are the two states who were in continuous conflict over the two rivers Krishna and Godavari, as both of these states shares both the rivers and its tributaries to some extent and these ongoing disputes was not willing to end till the Centre (Union Ministry of Jal Shakti) finally gave the jurisdiction to execute over the Krishna and Godavari rivers through Krishna and Godavari River management Boards (KRMB and GRMB).


  1. The hydel power generation and the constructive project strategy undertaken at Srisailam, Nagarjunsagar and Pulichintals reservoirs are the long stand reasons for the ongoing conflict between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  2. Andhra Pradesh for long time wanting the Boards to give proper and finally advisory command over the water dispute, but Telangana tried to go against Andhra Pradesh and posing hurdles.
  3. Andhra Pradesh put forward various projects one of it was a lift irrigation scheme for Rayalaseema, on top of this Telegram advance with more projects than the later. Therefore, the Board, Central Water Commission and the Apex Council found it quite skeptical in transferring the power of share of water over the two disputing states because both the states without taking any clearance they recommend dozens of strategies regarding the use of the river.
  4. The Board was formed prior to seven years under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. to resolve the conflict but it took long time to come to a solution.
  5. The Board further formed the Apex Council consisting of the Union Water Resources Minister and the Chief Ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
  6. The Government of Andhra Pradesh came forward and brought that they were willing to use the Krishna river a bit more from the Srisailam Reservoir which in turn outraged the Telangana government who filed a complaint against Andhra Pradesh. To encounter the Telangana state, the government of Andhra Pradesh complained that the projects of Palamuru-Rangareddy, Dindi Lift irrigation Schemes were under taken on the river Krishna while Kaleswaram, Tupakulagudem programme on the Godavari river.


To resolve the ongoing water dispute over the Krishna River two tribunals were constituted, in which the second tribunal did not give satisfaction to Andhra Pradesh because the second tribunal named The Brijesh Kumar Tribunal granted only 196 thousand million cubic feet to them whereas 81 tmcft of excess flow of water to Maharashtra and 177 tmcft to Karnataka, and the Government of Andhra Pradesh resorted. When the new state Telagana came into existence in 2012, Andhra Pradesh urged to involve Telagana as another different party to KWDT and the water is to be divided among the four states. Finally, objected the order of the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal in Supreme Court.


The Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal was constituted in 1969 by the Government in April headed by Justice Bachawat and gave ultimate decision in 1980 to utilise the river water judiciously. Then the Andhra Pradesh government diverted 80 tmcft of the river water from Polavaram to the Krishna river. After the formation of the Telangana state, the dispute started between the two states mainly because Andhra Pradesh came up with many projects which instilled fear within Telangana, which had chances of drowning some of its districts.


Fighting over the two rivers for long seven years under the constituted constitution of Andhra Pradesh finally came to an end, when the Centre gave its notification of jurisdiction of Krishna and Godavari rivers recently to the Krishna and Godavari River Management Boards (KRMB and GRMB) which will come into effect from October 2014. The Centre gave them power to go with 35 projects in the Krishna basin and 71 projects in the Godavari basin. Now, they can peacefully head towards in the construction of dams and barrages, imparting of power supplies, even they can carry out part of canal development strategies. Therefore, from the onset of the notification the governments of both the states will transfer their complete jurisdiction and its requirements to the Boards. The Centre has wilfully commanded that both the states have to deposit of rupees 200 crore to the Boards respectively to enable it carry out their duties, in addition to this the Centre provided strong Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to aid them in their functional processes.[6]

The Centre in its notification included Schedule 1, 2, and 3 for the water related purposes.

  1. Schedule 1- It enumerates structural and developmental work that includes barrages, barricades, embankment, tanks regulating structures and supply of power connections under the complete jurisdiction of the KRMB, this schedule expressed that KRMB will undertakes all the remain and under way projects in the Krishna river basin in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.[7]
  2. Schedule 2- This schedule lays down that all the head works performed under the jurisdiction of the KRMB would have to perform in accordance with the act including administration, operation, maintenance and regulation.
  3. Schedule 3- – It briefly highlights that all the leading projects and works falling under the KRMB jurisdiction will be carried out but the dischargement of the functions as per act will be governed by both the states.

In consonance with the notification, that the unapproved projects of Telugu Ganga, Veligonda, Handri-Niva, Muchumarri, Galeru-Nagari, Siddapuram and Guru Raghavendra undertaken by the A.P. government in the Krishna basin, Similarly, projects of Pattiseema, Purushotthapatnam, Chintalapudi, and Venktanagaram were of Andhra Pradesh in the Godavari basin and in other projects of Telangana such as Kanthanapally, Kaleshwaram, Pranahitha, Gudem, Mukteshwar, Sitarama Ramappa-Pakhal were also there. The notification laid down that all the projects that were not approved will stand as in for approval in accordance with the Act. Finally, the respected State Governments will have to immediately cease their unnecessary unapproved projects with the effect of the notification.[8]


The river water dispute is the biggest conflict that goes on for centuries and years ruining the very relationship among the states. Krishna and Godavari river dispute went for long seven years even the River Boards committee but finally gave a ray of light when the jurisdiction of Krishna and Godavari rivers were given notification by the Centre by solving the long-standing problem. Though for now the conflict has been ended but it can arise in future at any time. There should strong set of Pan-India Tribunal to mitigate all the rising water related issues. Moreover, the rivers in should be linked to each other so that there can be proper utilisation of waters without any disputes. Setting up of one single tribunal for the management of water disputes would not serve its purpose to the fullest, side by side there should be a constitution committee or any medium of institution where the financial, administration and summarisation of up-to-date data and information should go in hand to hand. Inland river water issues ultimately become the nation problem in the hands of the politicians and goes on to become finally political issues[9], which in a way gets resolved ultimately.

Central Government has been playing an important and crucial role in this hour of need by sorting to every level that it can make best possible way. The Sarkaria Commission has also actively made its active presence in the water-related on-going disputes of the rivers. The huge and big projects undertaken by the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states over the Krishna and Godavari river basin can have biggest consequences on the environment and can even create disbalance in the ecosystem. The adversarial effects have its impact on the residentials of both the states too. The Centre’s notification on the jurisdiction over the Krishna and Godavari rivers was the most remarkable and to the mark solution till now, which helped in wiping out the dispute. The best way of coming into a solution to these water disputes is to take previous references, case laws and precedents decided. National water disputes are also the elements for the destruction of the federal structure of the country, thus it is high time to keep our strong intentions on implementing and making various policies, building up of secured administrative laws and improving the constitutional systems, which could bring peaceful situations between the states and water disputes could away in an easier way.[10]

[1] C. B. Griffin, “Watershed councils: An emerging form of public participation in natural resource management,” 35 Journal of the American Water Resources Association 505–18 (1999).

[2] Ramaswamy R. Iyer, “Indian Federalism and Water Resources,” 10 International Journal of Water Resources Development 191–202 (1994).

[3] P Abraham, “Notes on Ambedkar’s Water Resources Policies,” 37 4772–4.

[4] Abhiraj Singh, “Andhra Pradesh versus Karnataka Krishna River Water Dispute.”

[5] Jurisdiction of Krishna & Godavari River Management Boards – INSIGHTSIAS, 17 July, 2021.

[6] MOUSHUMI DAS GUPTA, “Jurisdiction of Godavari & Krishna boards finally notified as AP-Telangana water row rages” 16 JULY 2021.

[7] “Andhra Pradesh: Centre takes control of irrigation projects on Krishna & Godavari river | Amaravati News – Times of India,”available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/amaravati/andhra-pradesh-centre-takes-control-of-irrigation-projects-on-krishna-godavari-river/articleshow/84491332.cms (last visited August 15, 2021).

[8]“Jurisdiction of Krishna & Godavari river boards,” 27 JULY 2021.

[9] William Blomquist and Edella Schlager, “Political pitfalls of integrated watershed management,” 18 Society and Natural Resources 101–17 (2005).

[10] Pratik Dixit, “Rivers and social justice: adopting an ethical approach to river basin management in India,” 3 Indian Law Review 97–115 (2019).


Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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