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National Water Resources Council approves water policy

Dec 29, 2012

The policy suggests an overarching water framework law of general principles of water management that recognised water as a scarce resource and a sustainer of life and ecology, said the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

The National Water Resources Council (NWRC) has approved the National Water Policy (NWP) in its meeting in New Delhi on Friday. Led by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the council approved the policy as submitted by the National Water Board. The policy suggests an overarching water framework law of general principles of water management that recognised water as a scarce resource and a sustainer of life and ecology. Stating this, the prime minister gave the caveat that “the Central government, I repeat, does not wish to encroach, in any manner, upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights of states or to centralise water management”.

By extension, it suggests amending existing laws that give proprietary rights over water to individuals. The law will also cover the development of inter-state rivers and streamline the management of water in India. He said, “It is in this context that a suggestion has been made for a national legal framework of general principles on water, which, in turn, would pave the way for essential legislation on water governance in every state”.

Outlining India’s water challenges, Singh said, “Our water bodies are getting increasingly polluted by untreated industrial effluents and sewage. Groundwater levels are falling in many parts due to excessive withdrawals, leading to contamination with fluoride, arsenic and other chemicals. The practice of open defecation, which regrettably is all too widespread, contributes further to contaminating potable water sources. The rapid economic growth and urbanisation were widening the demand-supply gap and worsening the country’s water-stress index”.

The policy ensures people’s access to a minimum quantity of potable water for health and hygiene, determining ecological needs and bolstering water infrastructure in the east and northeast, which it claims are “water-rich”. However, a stronger statement recognising lifeline water as a fundamental right and stipulations on its quality and quantity is needed. There should be provisions holding the state accountable if it fails to provide this basic right, along with legal reforms for enforcement. The policy does not spell out priorities for water allocation.

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Source: Down To Earth

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