There is a great amount of sensitivity involved in water disputes arising out of river blockades caused due to the erection of dams and reservoirs as well as due to lack of strict adherence to river water sharing treaties. South Asia is home to a number of water sharing disputes.
When it comes to Pakistan, the single largest foreign policy issue for them in relation to India after the Kashmir dispute is that of water sharing wherein they accuse India of trying to create a drought-like situation in the country by building massive dams across rivers thereby stopping the entry of water into Pakistan’s territory. India levels same kind of charges against China but the crux of the matter is that apart from our water sharing disputes with our neighbours, we are facing a number of feuds taking place within the nation as well. States have been feuding with one another since a long time over this issue. The warpath doesn’t seem to come to an end. When the year began, we saw an ugly brawl taking place between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the issue of the Mullaperiyar Dam and these days we are witnessing the escalation of the problems associated with the Cauvery row between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Instead of going into the intricacies of both the disputes, I would merely state that the simple solution to these water woes is the urgent and necessary implementation of the project of inter-linking of rivers, an ambitious project which was envisaged for the first time during the 70’s, brought back to life by the NDA government following a mentioning of the same in President Kalam’s Republic Day Speech and put in the cold storage by the UPA government for the sake of cheap political considerations.
The aim of this project was to interlink all the rivers flowing across the nation and help member states by diverting river water from water sufficient states to the ones who were suffering from deficiency of water. Some states objected to this as they held it to be in violation of the doctrine of federalism as water happens to be a state subject but in a recent Supreme Court judgement, the apex court ruled that national interest was well over regional considerations and the principle of federalism. The Supreme Court directed the Central Government to take steps to implement the interlinking project urgently in the interest of the nation but till now no substantial steps have been taken in this direction merely because of the fact that this happens to be a long term project which would not yield immediate political gains but would rather be very costly on the incumbent government as it would lead to wide scale displacement of people and massive agitations which this UPA government is not in a position to handle. So till the time a powerful government arrives at the centre, we can expect our water woes to continue as the project of interlinking of rivers would continue to lie in cold storage.