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India: Bill to Streamline Adjudication of Inter-State River Water Disputes Pass in Lok Sabha

In his concluding remarks, the Minister said as only 4 per cent water can be replenished to meet the demand

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India, Bill, Water
He said the DRC would be established by the Centre consisting of experts from relevant fields before the water dispute was referred to the Tribunal. Pixabay

A Bill to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust was on Wednesday passed in the Lok Sabha by voice vote.

Moving the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the draft legislation proposed to introduce a mechanism to resolve the water disputes amicably by negotiations through a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC).

He said the DRC would be established by the Centre consisting of experts from relevant fields before the water dispute was referred to the Tribunal.

In his concluding remarks, the Minister said as only 4 per cent water can be replenished to meet the demand, it was a very important issue and this was the need of the time to think about water management because of increasing danger of climate change.

India, Bill, Water
A Bill to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust was on Wednesday passed in the Lok Sabha by voice vote. Pixabay

“We should think on both demand as well as supply, otherwise a time will come when we will have to work on this issue with compulsion.”

The Minister said the Bill seeks amendment to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 considering the increase in demand for water by the states and that inter-state river water disputes were on the rise.

Over 20 members from treasury benches and opposition raised their concerns about the Bill and proposed suggestions.

BJP’s Varun Gandhi said the country would be a loser if one looked at water from a territorial perspective and stressed on the need to look water from a national perspective.

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“We need a political solution rather than a legal one to end the inter-water river dispute… I walked across the Cauvery with academics, and what I found was deeply distressing,” he said.

“More than 50 per cent of marginal farmers have given up agriculture. The districts in the Cauvery delta had the lowest agricultural growth.”

Opposing the Bill, CPI-M’s Majeed Ariff said he smelt “political motivation” behind the introduction of the Bill and noted that implementing mechanism was silent on the proposed draft legislation.

H. Vasanthakumar of Congress mentioned that southern states had the most inter-state river water disputes.

India, Bill, Water
Moving the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the draft legislation proposed to introduce a mechanism to resolve the water disputes amicably. Pixabay

Demanding a National Water Policy, TRS member Nama Nageswara Rao said he supported the Bill but mentioned that it was not “complete” to resolve the water disputes.

Pointing out that a total of 70,000 TMC (2,000 Million Cubic) water was going into sea while the irrigation requirement of the whole country was 40,000 TMC and 10,000 TMC was needed for drinking and industries, the MP said a proper policy would solve the problem.

Midhun Reddy of YSR Congress said river water disputes should be solved within six months and voiced support to the Bill.

Mahabali Singh of JD-U said that reservoirs should be built and maintained well and mentioned that if states don’t listen to tribunals, there was no point in this Bill.

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BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said he had opposed the introduction of the Bill because states were not consulted but now he supported it.

“This Bill holds promise for tightening and improving adjudication. But some practical questions remain unaddressed. How does the Bill propose to address the challenge of implementing the Tribunals Award. Cauvery Water Tribunal award given in 2007 is yet to be implemented,” he said.

The Bill seeks to provide for a single standing Tribunal (with multiple benches) instead of multiple Tribunals, which shall consist of a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson and not more than six members (three judicial and three experts).

The term of office of the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson shall be five years or till they attain the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.

It is proposed that the assessors, who provide technical support to the Tribunal, shall be appointed from amongst experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service not below the rank of Chief Engineer.

The total time period for adjudication of a water dispute has been fixed at a maximum of four and a half years. The decision of the Bench of the Tribunal shall be final and binding on the states concerned.

It also seeks to provide for out of court settlement of disputes. (IANS)

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India to Set Up “Border Haats” with Myanmar

The Minister said, The success of the "Border Haats" running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar 'haats'

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India, Border Haats, Myanmar
To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of 'Border Haat' has been identified in four places -- Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram. Pixabay

The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there.

“To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of ‘Border Haat’ has been identified in four places — Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram,” Mizoram Commerce and Industries Minister R. Lalthangliana told IANS.

The Minister said, “The success of the “Border Haats” running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar ‘haats’ with Mynmar in Mizoram.”

Mizoram Commerce and Industries Department Director J. Hmingthanmawia said that the state government has sent the detailed proposals in this regard to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for its approval.

India, Border Haats, Myanmar
The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. Pixabay

“Once we get the green signal from the MEA, we would seek funds from the Union Industries and Commerce Ministry,” Hmingthanmawia told IANS. He said that officials of the Mizoram government and Myanmar have recently conducted a joint survey and identified the locations to set up the “Border Haats”.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga in his Independence Day speech had said that the proposed “Border Haats” would become important trade points between India and Myanmar.

“Land Custom Station (LCS) at Zokhawthar, the lone trade route for Mizoram with South East Asian countries, is being proposed for upgradation. Construction of Trade Facilitation Centre at Tlabung has already been completed.”

“The Indian government has also proposed construction of an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at four places at the border in Mizoram — Marpara, Tuipuibari, Silsuri and Nunsury. The construction of ICP at Kawrpuichhuah is also expected to commence shortly,” the Chief Minister added.

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Mizoram has an unfenced international border of 404 km with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh. The Border Security Force (BSF) has been guarding the Bangladesh border and Assam Rifles personnel are posted on the border with Myanmar.

Experts and various studies suggest that if the “Border Haats” are set up, smuggling of drugs and other commodities would be checked to a large extent. Security expert Manas Paul said that large-scale smuggling of drugs from Myanmar via Mizoram and other neighbouring states has increased in the last few years.

“What is really worrisome is the fact that these synthetic drugs have got a domestic market inside the state, especially among the younger generation. Cross border legal activities including setting up of “Border Haats” could curb the smuggling of drugs and other contraband,” Paul, who has authored books on security and terrorism in the northeast, told IANS.

The CUTS International, a Jaipur based international NGO, with support from the World Bank, had conducted a study in 2016 to understand and examine the effect of “Border Haats” on poverty alleviation and other multiplier effects such as informal trade.

India, Border Haats, Myanmar
At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there. Pixabay

CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee said that trade will increase income, curb smuggling, and cross-border crimes will also go down.

“‘Border Haats’ have contributed to the border area development, roads have improved, trafficking of women has stopped, unemployment issues have been addressed,” said Chatterjee.

Currently four “Border Haats” are operational in Meghalaya and Tripura. The first “Border Haat” was started on July 23, 2011 at Kalaichar (India)-Kurigram (Bangladesh) in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Three other “haats” followed in Meghalaya and Tripura.

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The Union Industries and Commerce Ministry has been spending on an average Rs 3.5 crore to develop the infrastructure and necessary facilities for each “Border Haat” along the Bangladesh border. The Bangladesh government is not providing any funds for the purpose.  (IANS)