Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Summary Of India Draft National Water Policy

How India manages its water resources is an issue of paramount importance. S. Ramesh at InfoChange.org gives an excellent summary of the National Water Policy and its merits and demerits.

The draft National Water Policy has gone into two revisions, first in May 2012 and then again in July, after being tabled in January when protests were made about the policy treating water as an economic good, and favouring privatisation. Still, the soul of the draft remains intact except for a few points.

There is every likelihood that water will become a highly rationed commodity in the future. We will have to pay for any excess water we use after our basic domestic, sanitation and agriculture requirements have been met. This makes a national-level legal framework to control water use and prevent inter-state, intra-state and regional water conflicts absolutely imperative.

Statistics on India's water availability are summed up in one paragraph and a table gives projected increase in water demand for various sectors. One quirky detail... Inland navigation which has no demand in 1988 shoots up to 15 bcm (billion cubic meters) in 2050! Is that due to the building of large canals to transfer water from one river basin to another? (I haven't read the report by the National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development  Plan 1999 from which this data was taken). Inter basin transfer of water or river linking as it is also known is often being presented as one solution for supplying southern Indian water "deficit" basins with "excess" water from mostly northern Himalayan rivers, although there are more local versions of the plan too. The problem off course is to get states to agree that they have excess water to part with, along with a host of other issues involving resettlement of displaced people and energy and ecological costs.

Quite a useful overview. And there are more interesting articles on India's water resources and the debates over privatization of water on the InfoChangeIndia website.

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