Amid a fresh round of confrontation between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing of Cauvery river water, Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Kumar Balyan has suggested that water be brought in the Concurrent list of legislative subjects, from the State list where it currently is, to resolve such inter-state disputes in the future.
“I seriously believe that water should be in the Concurrent list. Of course, this cannot happen without a consensus being developed around it. But we need to start talking. The states and all political parties need to consider this option. Politics on water has to stop. It has gone on for very long,” Balyan said.
Subjects in the Concurrent list can be legislated upon by the Centre as well as the state governments. In case of a conflict between central and state laws, the central law prevails. The Union Water Resources Ministry has been trying to bring in some reforms in the sector but feels helpless by the fact that any law in this regard can be brought only by the state governments.
A few months ago, the ministry came up with drafts of two model laws for better water management. These proposed laws can be enforced only if the states decide to adopt them, after these are passed by Parliament.
Considering that water is becoming an increasingly contentious issue, the country requires a more collaborative governance on it, Balyan said.
“The Cauvery dispute is a very old one. There are several other inter-state water disputes like that. But we are seeing newer fights emerging as well. The recent case of Odisha and Chhattisgarh fighting over water of the Mahanadi is also becoming very serious. We can’t have a separate tribunal being set up for every dispute. Some basic principles on water sharing and water management have to be agreed upon by all states. The Centre has a facilitative role to play in this,” Balyan said.
Balyan is not alone in proposing that water be shifted to the Concurrent list. His senior in the Water Resources Ministry, Uma Bharati, has also backed the idea in informal discussions. In fact, during the monsoon session of Parliament, Balyan had made this suggestion in response to a question in Rajya Sabha, and none of the members had contested the idea.
On Wednesday, the issue came up for discussion at the Consultative Committee meeting of the Water Resources Ministry. BJP MP from Jodhpur, Shankar Singh Shekhawat, brought up the matter and asked the government to initiate steps to bring water in the Concurrent list.