Water Sharing and Conflicts


Water is a vital resource and is an area of both contention and conflict. These conflicts could be between villages, blocks, districts, states or countries, between rural, peri-urban and urban areas, between the rich and the disadvantaged, between various stakeholders and different sectors. Thus, the nature of these conflicts is diverse and methods adopted in addressing them are often constrained by the restrictive and dominant approach that is adopted in addressing them. It is further aggravated by the lack of objective and validated facts to facilitate rational dialogue and decision-making among the various stakeholders that could lead to acceptable solutions. It is therefore important that a multidisciplinary perspective be adopted in order to understand the complexities and the inter-connectedness of the different dimensions regarding the sector in order to meet the needs of the country.


The primary objectives of the water programme include:

  • Research for generating a data and information base and analysing them using a conceptual framework which adopts a multidisciplinary perspective.
  • Provide platforms for sharing the results of the research and facilitate multi stakeholder dialogues to influence policy.
  • Strengthen networks and facilitate the participation of partnerships from the local to the global (Zonal Water Partnerships, Country Water Partnerships to Global Water Partnerships and other institutions and organisations) in research, dialogue and advocacy activities.
  • Publication and dissemination.

During the past years the thrust areas have been issues surrounding Inter-State Transboundary Water Sharing and Conflict Resolution, establishment of Zonal Water Partnerships across the country and development of knowledge systems in relation to transboundary water sharing. The sources of conflict surrounding transboundary water sharing is context specific and dependent on several factors other than the hydrological and technical that is social, economic, cultural, legal and political. Therefore, a clear understanding of the river basin based on data that has been systematically collected and analysed adopting a multi disciplinary perspective is necessary and important for evolving workable mechanisms to either resolve and/or mitigate these conflicts. Thus the water programme in the coming years will focus on inter state transboundary water sharing and conflict resolution.


Papers have been generated on interstate water sharing and mechanisms for conflict resolution with special focus on the Cauvery dispute from a multidisciplinary perspective involving the expertise of professionals from various disciplines, policy makers and NGOs. Papers have been contributed by the faculty representing various disciplines from within the Institute as well as professionals drawn from the water sector from across the country.

Data is also being generated in relation to interstate river basins across the country through collaboration and active participation of the Zonal Water Partnerships. The basins covered are the Indus and Jhelum in the North, Cauvery in the South, Brahmani in the East, Narmada in the West and Dhansiri in the Northeast.

Prof. T. N. Narasimhan, University of California at Berkeley, USA and Prof. Vinod K. Gaur, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, and CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation, Bangalore, India on invitation from NIAS developed a document on India’s Water Policy.

During the year 2009-2010, the programme will focus on issues relating to the theme: “Water Conflicts in India: The State, the People and the Future” from a multidisciplinary perspective.The research and advocacy activities will include the understanding of these conflicts in the context of the federal nature of the Indian State, sectoral conflicts surrounding interstate river waters that impinge upon people’s lives and livelihood, such as agriculture vs. industry, urban vs. rural and dalits vs. others and so on.  In this direction papers are being generated by professionals drawn from various disciplines, the civil society and policy makers. The issues covered include a philosophical discourse on water, the history of the interstate conflicts, case studies to understand the ways in which rivers play an important role in imagining Indian States and regionality, inter-sectoral conflicts surrounding water and their implications for the future of water conflicts in India.


Multi stakeholder platforms for dialogue have been provided at the regional and national levels to facilitate informed discussion and for critiquing and evolving alternative mechanisms for resolution of interstate transboundary conflicts with support from the Global Water Partnership.


  1. Mohan, Shantha N, and Sailen Routray, eds. 2015. Sharing blue gold: Locating water conflicts in India. Bangalore: National Institute of Advanced Studies. http://eprints.nias.res.in/686/.