The dispute between upper-riparian and lower-riparian regions of India on the issue of water sharing is not a new one. Sadly, the solutions being tried are also not new.
Therefore, this post aims to explore two broad structural changes that can help assuage the water-sharing disputes:
First, water has to be priced appropriately across the country, by all states. Currently, water is provided at throwaway prices and hence the scarcity value is not realised by the consumers. Also, in a perverse way, the subsidy on water is cornered by a prosperous few and is effectively a transfer of wealth to the rich. The poor, inevitably end up paying more. Pricing water has large ramifications, because the moment scarcity value is realised, consumption will be self-rationed.
Second, institutional mechanisms to resolve inter-state disputes have to be put in place. The Inter-state council as envisaged by the Constitution under Article 263 has been unsuccessful in doing this job. Largely because the council, housed in the Union Home Ministry(This excellent paper by Dr. M Govinda Rao provides more details), cannot be expected to negotiate for the states or be the arbiter in the disputes with the states. Therefore, there is an urgent need to establish these mechanisms that will resolve these disputes.