Markandeya river dispute: A year after TN’s request, Centre yet to set up tribunal

As per law, a tribunal must be constituted within a year of request made by the state governments.
KRP Dam across Pennaiyar
KRP Dam across Pennaiyar
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A year after the Supreme Court refused to order a stay on the Karnataka dam project across Markandeya river, a tributary of Pennaiyaru river, directing the concerned states to request setting up an inter-state water disputes tribunal, the matter is still in a limbo. Despite the government of Tamil Nadu’s request to set up an inter-state river dispute tribunal on November 30, 2019, the Union government is yet to act on it.

As per the Inter-state Water Dispute Act, 1956, the Union government shall constitute a tribunal within one year from the date of request. “When any request under section 3 is received from any State Government in respect of any water dispute and the Central Government is of opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, the Central Government shall, within a period not exceeding one year from the date of receipt of such request, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute,” the Act reads.

According to a Right to Information (RTI) response provided by the Ministry of Jal Shakti on January 24, 2020, following the request by the government of Tamil Nadu, a notice was sent to the riparian states of Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry and Karnataka to get their views on Tamil Nadu’s request. Since no reply was received from these states, the Union government set up a negotiation committee on January 20, 2020 for resolution of the dispute. The negotiation committee was headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC) and had members (Chief Engineers) from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) and Irrigation Management Organisation (IMO).

This negotiation committee met twice -- February 24 and July 7 -- to discuss the matter and a final report was submitted on July 31, 2020. “The Negotiation Committee has opined that the Ministry may consider the constitution of Tribunal for settlement of the dispute. No Tribunal has been constituted so far in the matter,” said another RTI response dated November 20, 2020.


The issue relates to the government of Karnataka constructing a dam of 500 mcft capacity across Markandeya river in Yargol village in Bangarpet taluk. The dam is being constructed with an aim to provide drinking water to Malur, Kolar and Bangarpet towns and 45 other villages. The project was approved in 2007 and as of 2019, around 80% of the construction is completed.

The objection by the government of Tamil Nadu is that the dam will adversely impact the flow of water to the state and it will affect the livelihoods of farmers in Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Thiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Villupuram districts. The government of Tamil Nadu, hence, objected to the project and approached the Supreme Court for a stay on further construction.

While the Supreme Court refused to stay the project, it ordered both states (Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) to request for a tribunal to decide on the issue. 

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