Riverine Politics

Continuing the celebration of Godavari Dussehra, let us today explore the ‘Riverine Politics.’

Riverine Politics can be broadly defined as the governance of the water along the whole course of a river. Among the water practitioners, the Riverine Politics is also known as Hydro-politics or Water Politics. Water expert Uttam Sinha, in his book Riverine Neighbourhood: Hydro-politics in South Asia, describes the framework of Riverine Politics as follows:

“With water assuming centrality, and increasingly becoming both a bilateral and regional agenda, South Asia is now a ‘hydro-political security complex’ in which states are simultaneously part ‘owners’ and part ‘users’ of rivers. This framework has opened up various levels of analysis on how riparian states behave (hydro-behaviour), upstream-downstream contestation (hydro-competition), prior use issues, and clashes of priorities. Given that states are rational egoists interested in maintaining relative capabilities, water has now acquired a political sharpness and the attributes of power” (2016:19).

India has two levels of Riverine Politics – the first is at the international level with neighbouring countries like Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, etc. where the issues of trans-boundary water management are covered, and the second one is at an inter-state level which deals with issues of water among the states. The Riverine Politics around the Godavari falls into the later one.

Due to inter-state water sharing disputes, which erupted in 1969, the Central Government of India established Tribunals, according to the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (ISWD) of 1956, for the resolution of water sharing conflicts. Along with Tribunals for other rivers of India, Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal was constituted to adjudicate the water disputes among the river basin states of Godavari. The Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal deals with water-sharing conflicts between the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Karnataka.

Further, to understand the intricacies of Riverine Politics, kindly watch the following interview of Uttam Sinha broadcasted by the Maha Tarun Bharat.

-Shilpa Dahake | Facebook


Sinha, Uttam. 2016. Riverine Neighbourhood: Hydro-politics in South Asia. New Delhi: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

* The facts and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author.


News Reporter
I am an architect turned anthropologist. After finishing my Masters in Anthropology from University of Pune, I was working with Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune under a project funded by UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Scheme, Government of Maharashtra. During which I was stationed in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra (which is predominantly a tribal region) as a Field Research officer. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali, India. My current research explores the interaction of the cultural-religious, the political-economic and the ecological dimensions of the river in Nashik city in Maharashtra. Broadly, investigating how the multiple perspectives of a natural resource overlap, contradict, challenge and support each other, thus shaping the urban landscape and producing socio-spatial inequalities.

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