All You Need To Know About India-International Conflict Over Water


India has only about 4 percent of the world’s renewable water resources but is home to nearly 18 percent of the world’s population. It receives an average annual precipitation of 4,000 billion cubic metres (BCM) which is the principal source of fresh water in the country.[1]

Reasons for conflict over water

  1. Unequal distribution of water on earth.
  2. Construction of dam and power station
  3. Pollution.
  4. Limited freshwater resources.
  5. Water is becoming scarce.

International water conflict

India’s Water Disputes with its Neighbours:-

  1. Water remains a politically contested issue in much of South Asia. The region is facing water shortage and agrarian difficulties, and it will continue to face increasing demands on energy and water with rapid industrialisation.
  2. Over-extraction of groundwater is of particular concern, with an estimated 23 million pumps in use across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.[2]
  3. Combine these elements have an effect on of climate change that’s reducing the extent of water in the brahmaputra basin and altering the patterns of water go with the flow underneath such events ought to increasing desire for power and invulnerable water degrees should immediately reconsideration in bilateral water-sharing treaties in future.

1. India – China Water Dispute

  1. The Brahmaputra and the glaciers that feed Ganga originate in china as an upstream riparian region[3], neighborhood china continues at the dominant position and can build infrastructure to intentionally end water from flowing downstream owing to previous inclinations they have been reluctant to furnish small details of its hydro-power projects, thus between the two neighbours there exists trust issues.
  2. Another furnish of anxiety between the two neighbours, is Yarlung Zangbo in China alongside the Brahmaputra river. Regardless of the two have signed a volume of MoUs on strengthening verbal alternate and strategic reliance and faith.
  3. For agriculture, India depends upon the Brahmaputra.
  4. China has now plan to build four more dams on the Brahmaputra in Tibet. Both India and Bangladesh worry that these dams will give Beijing the ability to divert or store water in times of political crisis.
  5. India, for its part, has built dams on the Teesta River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, to utilise the flow of the Teesta during the dry season.[4]

2. India – Bangladesh

  1. Sharing the waters of the Teesta river, which originates in the Himalayas and flows through Sikkim and West Bengal to merge with the Brahmaputra in Assam and (Jamuna in Bangladesh), is possibly the most contentious issue between two friendly neighbours, India and Bangladesh.
  2. The river covers nearly the complete floodplains of Sikkim, while draining 2,800 sq km of Bangladesh, governing the lives of heaps of hundreds of people.[5]
  3. Considering the lifeline of Bengal Teesta river is quite essential.
  4. Ganga Water Treaty of 1996 according to the mentioned treaty there exists a mutual agreement between India and Bangladesh to share surface water near their mutual borders. On the basis of this Bangladesh has sought an equitable distribution of Teesta water from India but with very little efficacy.
  5. Evey independent state in India usually has an extremely good impact over transboundary agreements, thus Teesta remains an unexecuted project.

3. India – Nepal

  1. Kosi, Gandaki, karnali on the mentioned rivers an agreement is signed between Nepal and India for the purpose of huge hydroelectric and irrigation projects by constructing dams.
  2. India’s construction is regarded as an encroachment by Nepal on its
  3. India and Nepal have traditionally disagreed over the interpretation of the Sugauli Treaty signed in 1816between the British East India Company and Nepal, which delimited the boundary along the Maha Kali River in Nepal.[6]
  4. India and Nepal fluctuate as to which float constitutes the supply of the river.
  5. India and Nepal dispute would perchance show up minor alternatively it gains strategic significance, because the disputed vicinity lies close to the Sino-Indian border.

4. India – Pakistan

  1. India and Pakistan have knowledgeable friction over a wide range of water conflicts after the partition. As a cease end result after several conversations and through cautious negotiation both had signed an accord known as the “Indus Waters Treaty” in 1960, which actually decided how the areas rivers are to be divided between the two countries. As a result of the treaty three eastern rivers of the Ravi, Beast and Sutlej were given to India to govern and manage, at the same time western rivers of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum command were given to Pakistan.
  2. However, the state of affairs for Pakistan has modified significantly from 1960, until the contemporary moment, as it is now on the edge of water scarcity.
  3. The float of all of Pakistan’s rivers skip via India first, so this naturally affords India an supremacy in controlling the outflow of these rivers.
  4. The Indian Government has more than forty projects that are each already performed or in the notion stage on the western rivers. The carrying of such matters to do within the western rivers has irked Pakistan.
  5. On the other hand, India keeps brushing aside these accusations of Pakistan as baseless and without any scientific backing.[7]
  6. In 2005, Pakistan challenged India’s 450 MW Baglihar dam projection the Chenab river before the World Bank, but lost the case in the end.[8]
  7. The current friction is over the hydroelectric projects that India is constructing alongside the Chenab River as per Pakistan this is non-compliance with the treaty that will affect its water supply.

5. India – Bhutan

  1. India and Bhutan hydro-electric power corporations started more than five decades ago.[9]
  2. Initially, the cooperation was specifically based on the improvement of small-scale hydro tasks such as Tala, Chukha and Kurichu.
  3. Thus Bhutan managed to generate 30,000 MW of hydro-power.
  4. In 2006, every international area inked a Power Purchase Agreement for thirty five years that would enable India to generate and import 5000 MW of hydro-power from Bhutan, the quantum of which multiplied to 10,000 MW in 2008.[10]
  5. On the other hand, the people of Bhutan raised objections to such tasks on their prolonged run results in the country.
  6. Both nations 2006 signed a electricity buy settlement for thirty-five years according to which 5000 mw of hydro-power can be generated and imported by India from Bhutan.
  7. Moreover in Bhutan people showed their unwillingness and oppose to such projects on their prolonged run results in the country.
  8. In case, if Bhutan ever decides to construct storage projects, issues will get immoderate and elevated nerve-racking when it comes to dealing with India.

Mekong River Dispute

Mekong river is one of the most valuable rivers in the world and is called the  “lifeline” because it is the main source of food, water  and economic opportunities that directly support an estimated 70 million people. As a vast geographical and climatic region, as well as being home to many endangered animals, fish and plants.

The race to cease water resources in the  Mekong delta adversely affects agriculture and fisheries, harms ecosystems  and fosters serious distrust and discord in the region. Moreover, hydropower along Mekong is being developed at the expense of States, causing serious effects and increasing instability within the region. The development and consequences of hydropower will lead to conflict between riparian  States, civil unrest within riparian  States,  and violence within communities.[11]








[8] Martin Wieland, Qingwen Ren, John SY Tan “New Development in Dam Engineering”.

[9] Satish Kumar “India’s National Security”, 2003.

[10] Dwarika N D hungel, Santa B Pun “The Nepal-India Water Relationship; Challenges”.

[11] International Journal Of Contemporary Research and Review.

This article has been written by Shweta Pathania, BA.LLB student at Law College, Dehradun.

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