Water is India’s next big challenge and the sooner the issue is addressed, the better. Rajasthan is already reeling under water stress and this bill can become a landmark for the state.
According to State Additional Chief Secretary (Water Resources) Ram Lubhaya, this would be the first ever legislation on water management in the country and would prove to be a “milestone” in harnessing of water resources. Bangalore’s National Law University has prepared the draft statute for the State Government.
Such a law would not only regulate demand and supply but also bring on board public participation in the sector. Water is a fundamental resource and its equitable distribution should be a priority.
Not surprisingly, water also finds a mention in the Millennium Development Goals, the seventh goal mentions the target to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to water by the year 2015. Water supply should be constant, adequate, safe in terms of quality and equitable so that it can accessed by each section of society. If required, a country must not shy away from differential tax on water. If you use more, then you should be willing to pay more. At present, most elite sections of society in India are getting water at miniscule rates while the deprived sections are not getting any water supply. Water supply is linked to many other factors. For example, you cannot eradicate diseases if people do not have access to clean and drinking water as water borne diseases will shadow any effort in this direction.
One of the basic problems that I have personally witnessed is that in India, especially in rural areas due to lack of adequate water supply, very often a household spends considerable time in procuring water. Women folk of hilly areas can be seen frequently carrying water from far off areas to fulfill their household requirements. Among other things, it is wastage of human effort because if water supply was available, such effort would go into otherwise economically useful productive activities.
Personally speaking, as I am always a champion of traditional knowledge and local participation, such a law would benefit immensely if apart from scientific resources, it also takes into account the traditional methods in practice for the conservation of water. It is sad that the marginal sections of society are often the most deprived sections in terms of availability of water too.
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State Water Policy (Draft), Government of Rajasthan
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