Amid recurrent floods and ongoing water disputes between states, the government today floated a draft bill which seeks to set up 12 river basin authorities in the country to settle discords and prevent deluge and pollution in inter-state rivers.
The Draft River Basin Management Bill, which seeks to amend the River Boards Act, 1956, was today put in public domain by the Water Resources Ministry.
The draft legislation seeks to create a mechanism for integrated planning, development and management of water resources of a river basin. The River Boards Act lacked such a provision.
So far, not a single River Board has been constituted under the present Act as no state ever made a request under the provisions of the legislation.
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 chief ministers of the co-basin states, ministers in charge of Water Resources, one Lok Sabha member, one MLA among others.
Likewise 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 matter could not be settled, the dispute will then be referred to the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 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 Brahamani-Baitarini basin, Cauvery basin, Ganga basin, Godavari basin, Indus basin, Krishna basin, Mahanadi basin, Mahi basin, Narmada basin, Pennar basin, Subarnreakha basin and Tapi basin.
People and stakeholders have been asked to offer their comments on the draft bill by July 31.