Government plans to come out with an updated version of National Water Policy with key changes in governance structures and regulatory framework. Plans are also to set up a National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency. Building consensus among the states within the constitutional framework is the pre-condition for making this changes. National Water policy was formulated to govern the planning and development of water resources and their optimum utilization. The first National Water Policy was adopted in 1987, it was reviewed and updated in 2002 and later in 2012.
National Water Policy 2012:
The salient features of national water policy (2012) are as follows:
- Emphasis on the need for a national water framework law, comprehensive legislation for optimum development of inter-State rivers and river valleys.
- Water, after meeting the pre-emptive needs for safe drinking water and sanitation, achieving food security, supporting poor people dependent on agriculture for their livelihood and high priority allocation for minimum eco-system needs, be treated as economic good so as to promote its conservation and efficient use.
- Ecological needs of the river should be determined recognizing that river flows are characterized by low or no flows, small floods (freshets), large floods and flow variability and should accommodate development needs. A portion of river flows should be kept aside to meet ecological needs ensuring that the proportional low and high flow releases correspond in time closely to the natural flow regime.
- Adaptation strategies in view of climate change for designing and management of water resources structures and review of acceptability criteria has been emphasized.
- A system to evolve benchmarks for water uses for different purposes, i.e., water footprints, and water auditing be developed to ensure efficient use of water. Project financing has been suggested as a tool to incentivize efficient & economic use of water.
- Setting up of Water Regulatory Authority has been recommended.
- Incentivization of recycle and re-use has been recommended.
- Water Users Associations should be given statutory powers to collect and retain a portion of water charges, manage the volumetric quantum of water allotted to them and maintain the distribution system in their jurisdiction.
- Removal of large disparity in stipulations for water supply in urban areas and in rural areas has been recommended.
- Water resources projects and services should be managed with community participation. Wherever the State Governments or local governing bodies so decide, the private sector can be encouraged to become a service provider in public private partnership model to meet agreed terms of service delivery, including penalties for failure.
- Adequate grants to the States to update technology, design practices, planning and management practices, preparation of annual water balances and accounts for the site and basin, preparation of hydrologic balances for water systems, and benchmarking and performance evaluation etc.
Why is there a need of updated National Water Policy?
- There are lots of changes that are required in the policy.
- Privatization of water usage should be defined.
- Agriculture was there but not included in the policy parameters.
- River revitalization is required to be revised.
- Technological innovation is required with the sensors, GIS and satellite imagery.
- Need to modulate the water by having a good picture of its path and quantity.
- Need to go back from basin to sub-basin to watershed and down into village water budgeting level.
- Policy does not deter use among those who can afford to pay for water.
- Policy does not follow polluter pay principle, rather it gives incentives for effluent treatment.
- Policy is criticized for terming water as an economic good.
- It does not focus on water pollution
India’s water crisis:
- Delay in monsoon and change in pattern.
- Management of both supply side and demand side of water.
- Unprecedented heat waves, which can become more persistent with climate change.
- Less pre monsoon rain.
- Water levels in India’s major reservoirs have fallen to 21 per cent of the average of the last decade.
- Fifty four per cent of the country’s groundwater is declining faster than it is being replenished.
- There is a crippling dependence on monsoon rains to replenish most of India’s key water sources– underground aquifers, lakes, rivers and reservoirs.
- Close to half the country, about 600 million people, face severe scarcity year after year.
- A Niti Ayog report forecasts water demand will be twice the present supply and India could lose up to 6 per cent of its GDP.
- India’s water table is falling in most parts; there is fluoride, arsenic, mercury, even uranium in our groundwater.
- The groundwater and sand extraction from most river beds and basins has turned unsustainable.
- Tanks and ponds are encroached upon.
- Dug-wells and borewells are constructed with alarming impunity to slide deeper and deeper to suck water from greater depths.
- Water is being diverted from food-crops to cash-crops; livelihoods to lifestyles; rural to urban— mismanagement is a bigger reason for the drought.
- Water shortages are hurting India’s ability to produce power and 40% thermal power plants are in areas facing high water stress, a recent World Resources Institute report says.
- Not only farmers, urban dwellers in cities and towns across India are also staring at a never seen before drinking water scarcity.
Getting States on Board:
- Getting states on board will be a very important element.
- In earlier water policies as well state water policies were fused into it.
- Entire federal structure will be tested with the issue of water.
- Process has to be dialogue driven, taking into sensitivity of the states as well and should not be imposed upon.
- Hydrological boundaries, rather than administrative or political boundaries, should be part of the water governance structure in the country.
- Building consensus among the States within the Constitutional framework is a pre-condition for making the changes.
- Water conservation, along with water harvesting and judicious and multiple use of water, are key to tackling the water challenges that India faces.
- Rejuvenation and revitalisation of traditional water bodies and resources through the age-old conservation methods.
- Need for disseminating modern water technologies in an extensive fashion.
- Relook basin and sub-basin planning
- Water policy should take in all recommendations and warning given by NITI Aayog
- Batting for policy changes for giving incentive to crops using less water.
- Participatory groundwater management should be promoted in a big way to maintain quality and sustainability.