India’s interstate river water governance is dominated and determined by disputes and their resolution. The history is driven by exigencies and contingencies of disputes’ emergence and recurrence. As an outcome of this, the ecosystem for enabling cooperation is almost non-existent. Conflicts emerge when cooperation enabling mechanisms fail. This partly contributes to the long-drawn and intractable disputes. Disputes resolution itself has to build on an ecosystem for cooperation. In the absence of a resilient ecosystem for cooperation, disputes persist and recur.

In spite of an apparent non-existent ecosystem for cooperation, India has a remarkable track record of interstate river water cooperation. The Central Water Commission (CWC) has compiled 160 interstate river water agreements in 2015. Yet there is little or no work engaging with this track record – scholarly or otherwise. This is yet another reflection on how disputes dominate policy and public discourse in India. This research, supported by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India makes humble beginnings to critically engage with this track record. The larger goal is to understand why do states cooperate over river waters? Under what conditions?

This is a collaborative activity between CPR and CWC. The objective is to update the compilation towards a comprehensive repository of interstate river water cooperation in India, and produce a synthesis for informing policy thinking about an ecosystem for interstate river water cooperation.