Saturday, 14 July 2012

Parliamentary Consultative Committee of Ministry of Water Resources Discusses National Water Policy

Minister of Water Resources and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal has said that there is a need to move towards transparent and participatory mechanisms of pricing of water by independent Water Regulatory Authorities. He was addressing the meeting of the Consultative Committee of Members of Parliament of the Ministry of Water Resources in New Delhi today. 

Emphasizing that the planning, development and management of water resources has to keep pace with current realities, Shri Bansal said there is a suggestion that a broad over-arching national legal framework of general principles on water is necessary to pave the way for essential legislation on water governance in every State. He said the need for a comprehensive legislation for optimum development of Inter-State rivers and river valleys has been recognized. The Minister said the draft National Water Policy recommends that the management of irrigation systems should move away from a narrow engineering-construction-centric approach to a more multi-disciplinary and participatory approach. He pointed out that the draft policy emphasizes the need to determine the ecological needs of rivers and also institutionalization of community based water management. Shri Bansal called for building up incentives to narrow the gap between irrigation capacities created and those being utilized. 

Stating that water security of the future will depend on efficient management of water, Shri Bansal said we need to be conscious of water footprints and evolve benchmarks for its efficient use. He added that efficient use of water in Industry through recycling has been adequately emphasized in the Policy. He recalled that increasing water use efficiency by 20% is one of the goals of National Water Mission. 

The Minister expressed concern over the decline in the ground water table across the country. Pointing out that the present legal situation gives every land holder the right to pump unlimited quantities of water from a bore well, Shri Bansal said there is no regulation of ground water extraction and no coordination among competing uses. He added that inadequate and sub-optimal pricing of both power and water is promoting the misuse of groundwater. Shri Bansal called for moving to a situation where ground-water can be treated as a common property resource held by the state under public trust doctrine. He said there is a need to map aquifers to quantify the water availability and let the community know and manage their aquifer for ensuring water security. Stating that the access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation are basic human needs, Shri Bansal said the policy classifies drinking water and sanitation needs as pre-emptive needs and the governance institution must ensure availability of water for these needs within easy reach of every household. 

Minister of State for Water Resources and Minority Affairs, Shri Vincent H. Pala was also present. The Members of Parliament who were present included Dr. Gyan Prakash Pilania, Dr. Prabha Kishor Taviad, Dr. Jyoti Mirdha, Shri Mohan Jena, Shri G. S. Basavaraj, Dr. Kirodilal Meena, Shri Ijyaraj Singh and Shri Rajaiah Siricilla. Several suggestions were made in the meeting which included recognizing water as national resource and bringing it into concurrent list, popularizing micro irrigation, prioritizing water needs of people living in water deficit areas, promoting rainwater harvesting, preventing wastage of water flowing into sea, checking illegal mining in river beds, introducing punitive measures to check water pollution and introducing cropping patterns based on availability of water in the area. Some members called for identifying water stressed states and giving them special status for central assistance. 

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