AT THE FIFTH MEETING OF THE NATIONAL WATER RESOURCES COUNCIL
Lakhs of villages in our country have become water-scarce or, worse still, no-source villages. Many towns and cities are facing acute shortage of drinking water and water for industrial use. Depletion of ground water resources, on which millions of rural families depend for their drinking water needs as well as irrigation, continues unabated. This is made worse by the growing pollution and inefficient use of surface water. Our culture and tradition enjoins upon us to treat our rivers as sacred. Yet, over the past few decades, more rivers are getting more polluted at more places than ever before. Scarcity of water is compounded by its unequal, irrational, and unjust distribution in both rural and urban communities.
Therefore, the situation is forcing us to recognize water security as an overriding national objective — both as an inseparable aspect of food security but also in its own independent right. While we prepare for the challenge ahead, we should critically re-examine the administrative framework and the policies we have actually implemented during the last 55 years for the water resources development.
We are, therefore, left with no alternative but to think radically, and come up with innovative and bold responses to the enormous challenge that our nation and our citizens are facing
. What we need is an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach. An approach that covers not only technological aspects but also social, economic, legal, and environmental concerns.
In particular, right to drinking water should be accorded a priority
over every other alternative use.
The policy should also recognize that the community is the rightful custodian of water
. Exclusive control by the government machinery, and the resultant mindset among the people that water management is the exclusive responsibility of the government, cannot help us to make the paradigm shift that to participative, essentially local management of water resources. Both the Centre and the State governments should, therefore, actively seek the involvement of the community at all levels — from decision-making to monitoring the implementation of decisions.
Nowhere is community control more needed than in the augmentation, management, and equitable use of groundwater resources. I would like the State Governments to actively encourage community action, wherever necessary with appropriate group incentives, to harvest rainwater in order to recharge groundwater resources.
Let this meeting of the Council send out a powerful message that "harnessing of every drop of rainwater" is a national priority
. We should lay special emphasis on localized, decentralized harnessing of water resources, which is most cost-effective and which also lends itself to better community participation.
Our catchword should be: "Catch the catchment
". Wherever necessary, our farmers and rural communities should be encouraged to bund every field and bind every rivulet. This will prevent soil erosion and silting of the reservoirs. There is a suggestion that every village should earmark five percent of its area for creation of community water bodies, much like the community grazing grounds that still exist in many villages. It is a powerful idea whose time has come.
An issue that demands a critical look is the inefficient use of water in our agriculture and industry. Technologies and methods are available today whereby the agriculture sector could cut its water needs by 10 –50 %, industries by 40-90% and cities by 30 –35 % without any sacrifice of economic output or quality of life.
Another aspect that I would like to emphasize is transparency in the implementation of water projects.
The government spends huge sums on these projects. However, the process of incurring expenditures, and its relationship to intended benefits is often opaque. The supposed beneficiaries often do not have an opportunity to know the details of expenditure on these projects, or to relate them to the benefits that are supposed to follow. Therefore, the National Water Policy should start a new culture of public monitoring of expenditure and outcomes of water projects.
The draft National Water Policy has rightly laid down the principle of "polluter pays" as the key to preventing pollution of water sources. While this is welcome, we should go a step further and make it clear that prevention of pollution and wastage of water is a National priority.” (PIB PR April 01, 2002, emphasis supplied)
: What is noteworthy about the above statements is that most of them are contradicting the contents of water policy that the meeting was to pass! While some have passed it off as another of the April Fool’s day, we see a clear pattern in the dichotomy between what he says and what the water resources ministry does. Now some may pass it off as another version of the famous mask, but isn’t the issue too serious for that?
A COMMENT ON NWP-2002
The NWP 2002 document could not come out as a pro-people, environment-sensitive, conservation oriented tool assuring equity, justice and ecological sustenance vis-à-vis water resources development and management.
There is little rationality in the document with regard to conservation of water, its protection from pollutants and violations, immediate linkages of the water resources with land, forest, flora, fauna, agriculture and ecology.
The document builds the context for a centralised management of water resources. It is explicit in the statements that water – a natural resource can be ‘put to beneficial use’ as ‘one and indivisible’ and that ‘rivers and aquifers cut across state boundaries’. This attitude may also be latent in all other macro management proposals of that envisage inter basin transfer and regulation of inter-state rivers (articles 3.2, 3.4, 4.2 & 21.1).
Most of the document is devoted to the engineering of water. Here engineering should mean harnessing, controls and manipulation. In fact the three factors mentioned can also be attributed to the root cause of major water crisis in the country. The constructive ingredients – one may like to call them dams or irrigation systems – have emerged as the core theme. The attitude of the NWP-2002 in this respect is no different from the one formulated in 1987.
Inter basin transfer presupposes that one water basin has surplus water resources to feed another water basin. This often is built on assumptions rather than proven data on specific cases and it (inter basin transfer) often emerges as major source of exploitation. The so called water deficient basin may also be a politically stronger area to demand more than its natural share of water than the other that may be politically mute, ignorant or short-sighted.
NWP2002 does not have corresponding supportive policies for the views contained in Article 15. There are options to link the aspects of water availability with agro-climatic regions. These are well recognised – by further spelling out the limitations of certain perpetually dry (arid and semi-arid) geographical regions making choices of cultivating water intensive crops or creating urban or industrial centres with water demand higher than its natural share.
Watershed approach (Article 17.6) has been viewed as a comprehensive soil-conservation, catchment area treatment, forest protection measure and not as a balanced micro-level water management module. To a greater degree, by presenting watershed approach as an appendix to flood control measure the NWP-2002 has killed the cause of watershed approach, much of which is already diluted by its populist implementations.
The limitations of water resources have to be viewed from the micro level and one has to live with the reality that water deficiency cannot be met with the application of technology that can flood a highland and convert the deserts green.
There may be a policy shift that all future growth in Industry and Urban development and changes in cropping patterns must adhere to limitations set out by the water resources. Emperor Akbar had created Fatepur Sikri as his new capital that did not last
, the newly built palaces and forts were not razed by natural disasters or by enemy attacks, they simply had to be abandoned as there was not enough water around the place.
Dilip Fouzdar (C-489, Sarita Vihar, NEW DELHI-110044,
(Comment prepared for the Update)
SOME EXPERT VOICES ON NWP2002
It is a victory for the IMF, the World Bank and the multinational corporations, which want to trade on water.
Rajendra Singh, Tarun Bharat Sangh (THE HINDU 090402)
Even after years of colossal financial failures of centralized water management, our policy makers seem to find it extremely difficult to accept that decentralised water management systems must be an inalienable part of a national water policy… But then what do you expect from the in-the-box-thinking of our water establishment? Particularly when the box has been sealed airtight for so long that that it gets no oxygen and certainly everything inside is long dead and rotten.
Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment
(THE TIMES OF INDIA 0504002, BUSINESS STANDARD 160402)
Little is done to discourage farmers from growing water hungry crops like sugarcane in relatively arid areas of Maharashtra.
Edit (THE ECONOMIC TIMES 050402)
The new policy was drafted in 1998 and the final document was to be the product of a detailed national consultative process. I was part of the consultation initiated by CAPART... Others who were part of this National Consultative Committee on Water included Anna Hazare, Achyut Das, Vandana Shiva and Rajendra Singh. Senior officials of the Planning Commission and all Ministries concerned attended meetings of this Committee. It is a sad commentary on the state of Indian democracy that not one of the final written recommendations made by this Committee finds a place in the new water policy.
Mihir Shah (THE HINDU 070602)
The World Bank’s Water Resources Sector Strategy and Delhi Consultation
On May 20, the World Bank held its Delhi consultation on its proposed Water Resources Sector Strategy. SANDRP was invited at the meeting and some of the comments made by SANDRP at the meeting and subsequently submitted to the Bank
, specifically about the India section in the WRSS are given below. The fact that the Bank expressed its inability to invite some of the most well known people’s movements and organisations for the consultation says a lot about the “consultation”.
Comments on “What the new Sector Strategy might mean in India in general and the state of Andhra Pradesh in particular” (pp.55-60)
by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People
(These comments form part of a forthcoming critique of the WRSS by SANDRP)
The India section does not give an accurate account of the successes and failures of what the World Bank has been doing, and is at present doing in India. Because it gives a false impression of the Bank's work in India, the contents of the section and its conclusions are by necessity quite misleading.
* Para 167: While it is true that Water Resources Development has linkages with poverty levels, this does not mean that the large irrigation projects are best methods of reducing poverty. In fact, evidence shows that local systems are far superior at reducing poverty: unlike large projects, local systems do not generate
any poverty, and they have much lower social, environmental
, economic and opportunity costs. 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture, most of them on rainfed agriculture. Any water resources-related activity that helps the maximum number of the poorest of rural people would have the greatest impact on poverty and the cost of not doing local systems in terms of impact on poverty is much larger than cost of not doing large systems
. Today, India, produces about 210 MT of foodgrains, but a very big proportion of poor people still do not have purchasing power to buy the food. Uneconomic and wasteful storage of over 60 MT of foodgrains at the same time leads compelling loss-making and highly subsidised export of foodgrains. One activity that can surely change this picture is local water development and management systems.
* Para 168: The World Bank became a key lender to Indian water sector only after the early 1970s, leading to the construction of many big dams, most of them unaccountable, uneconomic, destructive projects giving unsustainable and inequitable benefits at best. Today, about 80% of India's water resources budget goes for large dams and the World Bank surely shares responsibility for these warped priorities, taking away the precious resources and development opportunities for the people in drought-prone and flood-affected areas. Any activity by the Bank that fails to correct this anomaly and instead puts further resources into large projects would not be helpful in poverty alleviation in India.
* Para 169: “Efforts to promote reform, however, often had little result.” This last sentence of para 169 captures the essence of World Bank experience in India. Eight years ago Orissa was a model state
for the World Bank with India's first state water resources consolidation and power sector restructuring projects being implemented there. Today these World Bank projects are so disastrous that the name Orissa seems to have become unmentionable. Nowhere in the WRSS is OWRCP mentioned
. While the Bank has accepted the major challenge is in attention to the environment, managing scarce resources in an efficient and accountable manner etc, there is little reflection of this in the Bank's activities in India. At the same time the WRSS shows the Bank is ready to support yet more large projects. The case of hydropower development illustrates this. In this para the Bank says there is opportunity for development here, but it is well known that existing hydropower stations are not performing most efficiently, and there is huge scope in improving their performance and addressing the large unresolved social and environmental problems caused by these projects, many of them supported by the Bank. Moreover, the Bank's bias for large projects and its equation that development means large projects (one can see attempt to see this correlation in WRSS) is once again apparent. We do not find the Bank saying that there are many options for development for water resources and energy, and that least-cost and appropriate options should be adopted in a participatory way. In the entire WRSS, there is little mention of local water options, groundwater recharging
, demand side management and watershed development as an option in water resources development, nor is there mention of drought-prone areas and flood-affected regions, both of which are large in India.
* Para 173: (Note the lack of any mention of Orissa, Haryana or Tamil Nadu, where the Bank has implemented Water Resources Consolidation projects over the last 7-8 years). The claim that in Andhra Pradesh, “This ambitious experiment has proved to be successful . . . water distribution and overall productivity improved . . .” are rather early and too self-congratulatory in the absence of credible figures. Other feedback on the Andhra Pradesh experience raises questions about the sustainability of the institutional reform, and whether there has been real benefits from the program so far.
* Para 174. The Bank forgot to mention here that it has a Haryana Water Resources Consolidation Project. If Haryana farmers are so unhappy with their irrigation systems, does this not suggest that the Bank's Haryana WRCP has been largely a failure?
* Para 176: The mention of an “integrated river basin approach” as central in India's National Water Policy only shows how shallow and superficial the Bank's standards are. It is well known to any objective observer that there is little happening in terms of a river basin approach in India. The same is true for most states and their water policies.
* Para 179: The World Bank's hope of supporting private hydropower in India, particularly when the most well-known experience in this regard has been such a disaster (the Maheshwar HEP), shows the Bank is essentially interested in imposing what it considers good for the private sector and neither consulting nor keeping the interests of poor people in mind.
* Para 180: the discussion here only goes to show once again that the option of going in for local water systems in Godavari basin or the drought-affected portions of Krishna basin does not even figure in World Bank thinking. If the large projects option is exhausted, immediate option looked at by the Bank is long distance, inter-basin transfer of water. Moreover, there is no attempt to understand the experience of lift irrigation systems either. Nor is there any effort to get people's views on available options.
* Para 181: The Bank here does not even mention the basin-wide approaches. Thus if Krishna basin is the issue
, the people of the other states of the Krishna basin, namely Karnataka and Maharashtra, need to be involved, and it should be decided in a participatory way what kind of development will thus come about when the river basin approach is applied with the Dublin subsidiarity principle. Nor is there any mention of the need to assess the appropriateness of existing cropping patterns.
* Para 182: It is questionable whether the Bank should be talking about the appropriate incentive system for political leaders. Secondly, the strategy of picking up the lowest hanging fruit first may not apply in irrigation sector. The jury is still out on whether the sequence of reforms selected by the Bank in AP is indeed the best available or even an effective option.
Access to clean water a basic human right
According to an ICSSR-IDPAD research project on groundwater availability in India, the states having higher levels of groundwater development show lower level of poverty. Punjab, which is having only 6.16 % of its people under the poverty line, utilises 98.34 % of its groundwater resources. Similarly, in Haryana only 8.74 % of the people are below poverty line and it utilises about 75.61 % of its groundwater resources. On the other hand, in Orissa and Bihar where the proportion of people below the poverty line is more than 40 %, the utilisation of the groundwater is at about 15.22 % and 35.99 %. As per World Bank standards, 525 M people in India are below the poverty line. NWP2002 has not given adequate attention to the linkages between safe drinking water
, sanitation and health. (THE TIMES OF INDIA-D 160402)
SSP lobby decides nation’s water resource secretary
In a surprise U-turn and gross violation of the govt.’s own policy on extension of service to officials, the Centre has decided to grant a year’s extended tenure to Union water resources secretary B N Navlawala. In a neat maneuver, the Centre has decided to continue Navlawala’s appointment on contract basis by creating the post of adviser. And what in official circles is being described as unprecedented and extraordinary step, the adviser has been given full additional charge of the secretary’s post. According to highly placed sources, Navlawala’s unusual continuation has come about thanks to his Gujarat politicians led by Chief Minister. Hailing from Gujarat, Navlawala has been pitching for the controversial SSP. Sources said he had even tried to schedule a meeting of the NCA on April 29 to decide raising SSP dam height to 100 m. (THE TIMES OF INDIA 300402)
SILIGURI MEETING ON DAMS AND DEVELOPMENT
At a well-attended meeting On Dams and Development in North Bengal and North East
on April 20-21 at Siliguri, a unanimous resolution was passed supporting the implementation of the Report of the World Commission on Dams. The two-day meeting was jointly organised by NESPON and SANDRP. The resolution also raised many questions on the proposed Teesta Low Dams Stage III and IV to built on Teesta river near Siliguri and demanded that until the questions raised are answered to the satisfaction of all
, particularly the local people, the projects should not go ahead. Organisations and individuals from W Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Maharashtra attended the meeting.
Chief Engineer of NHPC in-charge of these projects also attended the meeting and was unable to answer most of the questions raised at the meeting. Many questions were also raised about the Environment Impact Assessment being undertaken for NHPC by the North Bengal University.