Government floats bill for river management boards

24 Jun 2013


The government today floated a bill proposing a regulatory system to control India's perennial riverine problems, including floods, unbridled pollution, and internecine water disputes between states.

The union water resources ministry has put in the public domain a draft River Basin Management Bill, which proposes to set up 12 river basin authorities in the country to settle disputes and prevent deluge and pollution in rivers.

The new bill seeks to amend the River Boards Act, 1956. It would among other things create a mechanism for integrated planning, development and management of river basins, which does not exist under the present Act.

The bill proposes a two-tier structure for each of the 12 river basin authorities. Every river basin authority would consist of an ''upper layer'' called the governing council and a ''lower layer'' described as the executive board charged with the technical and implementation powers for the council decisions.

The governing council has extensive membership and representation, including the chief ministers and water resources ministers of the states concerned. The executive board has also been given a broad base membership under the bill.

The governing council will approve the river basin master-plan to ensure sustainable river basin development, management and regulation. It will also take steps to enable the basin states to come to an agreement for implementation of river basin master plan.

The council will also settle inter-state water disputes.

The executive board on the other hand will prepare schemes for irrigation, water supply, hydropower, flood control, pollution control and soil erosion.

The draft bill has been prepared by the Justice Tejinder Singh Doabia Committee which was set up last year to 'study the activities that are required for optimal development of a river basin and changes required in existing act'.

The draft River Basin Management Bill also provides that in case of a dispute or difference between two or more states regarding any recommendation of the river basin authority or the refusal or neglect of any state to undertake measures in pursuance of the river basin master plan, the governing council of the river concerned would use conciliation and mediation as means to resolve disputes.

If the issue cannot be settled amicably, the dispute will be referred to the board for adjudication.

Every river basin authority will have its own funds and budget and is required to prepare an annual report to be tabled in Parliament.

The bill proposes to set up river basin authorities for the Brahmani-Baitarini basin, the Cauvery basin, The Ganga basin, the Godavari basin, the Indus basin, the Krishna basin, the Mahanadi basin, the Mahi basin, the Narmada basin, the Pennar basin, the Subarnreakha basin and the Tapi basin.

Stakeholders and the public have been asked to offer their comments on the draft bill by 31 July.

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