Sunday, Mar 31, 2002
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By Gargi Parsai
Only one State Punjab has not given its consent to the draft policy, which says that the "planning, development and management of water resources need to be governed by national perspectives''. The thrust is on development and management of water resources, effective settlement of disputes and time-bound implementation of projects. In keeping with modern day requirements, the revised draft for the first time calls for integration of quantity, quality and environmental aspects in water resource management and "proper'' resettlement and rehabilitation of persons displaced by projects. National management of water resources appears to be the key word in the draft policy. The Centre will seek endorsement of the States of its revised draft National Water Policy.
The ticklish issue of water allocation among States has been kept out so that the water policy is not bogged down by controversies. The proposed guidelines seek equitable sharing and distribution of water among States, even for water short States outside of a river basin "guided by a national perspective''. The guidelines also call for review of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956. The draft National Policy Guidelines for Water Allocation Amongst States has been referred to the National Water Board of the National Water Resources Council.
Despite assertions that the "responsibility in regard to regulation and development of inter-State rivers is declared by law to be in public interest lies with the Central Government'', the revised draft has incorporated setting up of sub-basin organisations, besides river basin organisations, for planned development and management following reservations by States. Ecology, agro-industries and non-agricultural industries and navigation and other uses are the new additions to the list of priorities, with the rider that they could be modified if warranted by the local area.
The revised draft policy has emphasised maintenance of surface and ground water quality and treatment of effluents to acceptable levels. More importantly, it calls for the polluter to pay for polluting a water source. Rather than creating new water resources infrastructure, the draft policy suggests re-orientation of funds for a new thrust in improvement and maintenance of the existing water resources facilities.
It calls for formation of Water Users' Association to facilitate management of irrigations systems in a time-bound manner.
Much of the new suggestions incorporated in the revised draft came from a Working Group of Irrigation/Water Resources Ministers of all States headed by the Union Water Resources Minister, Arjun Charan Sethi.
The Working Group was set up by the Council in its last meeting in July 2000.
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