Published on: December 13, 2022

Pennaiyar river dispute

Pennaiyar river dispute

Why in news? The Centre is unlikely to constitute a Tribunal to resolve the dispute on sharing of the Pennaiyar river water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.


  • Karnataka is building a dam across Markandeya river near Yargol village in Kolar district to provide drinking water to villages in Kolar, Malur and Bangarpet taluks.
  • The state has obtained all permissions to build the dam at a cost of Rs 240 crore.
  • centre asked the two states to resolve the issue amicably, since the water quantity involved is small.

Why Tamil Nadu is objecting the claim?

Tamil Nadu claims that

  1. Markandeya river is a tributary of Pennaiyar, construction of a dam by Karnataka will obstruct natural flow downstream.
  2. Large number of people in the state depend on Pennaiyar river for irrigation as well as drinking water purpose, the dam and the diversion of water would hit them hard.
  3. Building a reservoir to a tributary of Pennaiyar violates the inter-state water disputes Act.

What is Karnataka’s view point ?

  • The proposed dam diverts surplus waters of Varthur tank.
  • It is also implementing a lift irrigation scheme at Yellamallappa Chetty lake and is working on a scheme to supply the water from Pennariyar in Thattanur to 160 tanks

What are the provision of interstate water distribution ?

  • State list : Water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power
  • Union List: Empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

Ex: Damodar Valley Corporation, NHPC and  River Boards Act 1956 etc

  • Article 262 : Provides a role for the union government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding interstate rivers that arise among the state/regional government

What are the issues with Inter state water dispute tribunals ?

  • Protracted proceedings and extreme delays in dispute resolution

Ex: The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, constituted in 1990, gave its final award in 2007.

  • Opacity in the institutional framework and guidelines that define these proceedings and ensuring compliance.
  • Though award is final and beyond the jurisdiction of Courts, either States can approach Supreme Court under Article 136 (Special Leave Petition) under Article 32 linking issue with the violation of Article 21 (Right to Life).
  • The absence of authoritative water data that is acceptable to all parties currently makes it difficult to even set up a baseline for adjudication.
  • The growing nexus between water and politics have transformed the disputes into turfs of vote bank politics.

Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 :

  • Under the Act, a state government may request the central government to refer an inter-state river dispute to a Tribunal for adjudication.
  • Disputes Resolution Committee: When a state puts in a request regarding any water dispute, the central government will set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), to resolve the dispute.
  1. It will consist of a Chairperson, and experts with at least 15 years of experience in relevant sectors, to be nominated by the central government.
  2. It will also include one member from each state (at the Joint Secretary level), who is party to the dispute, nominated by the concerned state government.
  3. DRC will seek to resolve the dispute through negotiations, within one year (extendable by six months), and submit its report to the central government.
  4. If a dispute cannot be settled by the DRC, the central government will refer it to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal.
  5. Such referral must be made within three months from the receipt of the report from the DRC.
  • Tribunal: The central government will set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for the adjudication of water disputes.
  1. This Tribunal can have multiple benches.
  2. All existing Tribunals will be dissolved, and the water disputes pending before such existing Tribunals will be transferred to the new Tribunal.
  3. Composition : Chairperson(has to be a sitting SC judge) , Vice-Chairperson(sitting high court judge at the time of appointment, will hold office for five years or till attaining the age of 70) , three judicial members, and three expert members appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee
  • Time frames: Tribunal must give its decision within three years, which may be extended by two years
  1. If the matter is again referred to the Tribunal by a state for further consideration, the Tribunal must submit its report to the central government within a period of one year.
  2. This period can be extended by the central government.

About Pennaiyar River( South Pennar)

  • It is also known as Dakshina Pinakini ( Karnataka) and Thenpennai/Ponnaiyar or Pennaiyar (Tamil Nadu)
  • Origin: Nandi Hills in the Chikkaballapura district of Karnataka
  • Mouth: Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu Bay of Bengal
  • Dams: Small dams : Kelavarapalli( Hosur) and Krishnagiri( Krishnagiri) .

       Larger dams: Sathanur Dam (Tiruvannamalai).

  • Major industrial settlement: Chandapura, Anekal, Hosur, Bagalur and Chengam
  • Substantial part of Bangalore’s sewage enters this river via Bellandur and Varthur Lakes and other channels(old river Dakshina Pinakini does not exist anymore).
  • This is the second longest river in Tamil Nadu, after the Kaveri
  • The river is dry for the most part of the year , fed by the south-west monsoon in catchment area and the northeast monsoon in Tamil Nadu

Tribunals are  conceived as an innovative experiment, but they have failed to endeavour their goals. Explain