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Negotiating Troubled Waters

V.S. Vyas

Edited by N. Shanthamohan , Sailen Routrary, N. Sashikumar
Routledge, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 192, Rs. 595.00


Apart from the fact that the major river systems in our countryIndus, Ganges and Brahmaputratraverse our neighbouring countries, almost all perennial rivers of India flow through more than one state. The disputes on account of the international rivers are understandable; however, conflicts around sharing the river waters between states, and also among the regions of the states, are rampant; in fact, they are occurring more frequently. Essays in this book are, therefore, timely and relevant. In the introductory section the authors have taken an overview of the water sector in our country and located interstate disputes in the broader developmental context. It is interesting to observe that there were many examples of peaceful resolution of interstate river water sharing in the past. But in recent years conflicts have abounded. One of the authors of the essays in this section, Shantha Mohan has correctly pointed out the reasons for increasing number of such conflicts,River water sharing (is) constrained by inadequate information and data base, ineffective institutional mechanism, hardened regional identities and loyalties and, threat of economic hardships (p. 10). There are international conventions, so called Helsinki Rules or U.N. Convention of 1997, which emphasize equitable and reasonable sharing of transboundary river water sharing. There is also a consensus on the priorities for the use of river water, i.e. safe and adequate drinking water, water for livelihood and water for environment protection. The major source of conflict is the perceived scarcity of water. Uneven distribution of rainfall between regions, its concentration in a few days of the season and growing demand for water with growth of population, urbanization, water intensive agriculture and industries are frequently the main causes of conflict. To meet water scarcity many a times solutions based on technology, i.e., the large scale storage of water to minimize evapotranspiration, or carryingsurplus water from some rivers to water deficient regions by interlinking of rivers, are advocated. As one of the authors in this section, Sailen Routray, has maintained such technology driven solutions have contributed in aggravating the conflicts, not only among different states but also between the regions in the same state. Alternatives of conserving water, i.e. reuse of water, avoidance of leakages and waste, as well as demand management are also advocated, but have not received widespread support. Essays in the second section of the book emphasize the institutional dimensions of water sharing disputes and possible approaches ...

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