This study underscores the need to review the legal and institutional framework for regulating ground water utilization in India.
The basic objectives of this study were -
- To examine the adequacy of the existing institutional framework in regulating utilization of ground water in respect of “over-exploited”, “critical” and semi-critical” areas.
- To evaluate the level of awareness of the prevailing legal and institutional setup amongst the grass root level users as well as local level implementing agencies.
- To evaluate the efficacy of the ground water regulation system in providing access to ground water on equitable basis to the weaker section of the society.
- To examine the scope for self regulation through community based organizations like Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) or water users associations or other local level organizations in management of ground water utilization, at the local level.
- To evaluate the institutional arrangement for regulating exploitation of groundwater mainly for sale of water.
- To examine the reliability of the system for collection and dissemination of data on availability of ground water and changes therein at the micro level i.e. village and town.
Information for the study was collected from both secondary as well as primary sources with greater reliance on primary sources through field surveys at the grassroot level. The states selected for the study were Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, Tamil Nadu & West Bengal. Four sets of structured questionnaires after being pre-tested under practical field conditions were administered one each at state, district, village/town and households level.
The study notes the following points –
- The institutions providing credit and power have some indirect role in management of ground water.
- The legal and institutional framework for regulating ground water was grossly inadequate to tackle the trend towards over-exploitation of ground water in the country.
- The most important reason for ineffectiveness of legal measures lies in absence of any provisions for restricting the quantum of water extracted through existing ground water structures.
- The authorities must give powers to regulatory bodies to restrict excessive withdrawal of ground water by existing users.
- The composition of the ground water authorities, at both central and state level needs to be changed and these authorities should be provided with adequate staff and funds to discharge their functions in an efficient manner.
- The CGWA should evolve a strategy for launching massive awareness generation programme on continued basis in all the affected parts of the country.
- No punitive action has been taken by central or state ground water authorities even though the numbers of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical units are increasing.
- The regulatory machinery at all levels from centre to state to district and below is entirely bureaucratic. Public is nowhere in the picture, even at the grass root levels.
- Agricultural sector is the most important user of ground water followed by domestic use which, however, is far behind.
- The level of awareness among people about fall in the ground water table was quite high.
- Suggestions given by sample households to overcome problems of ground water management were supply augmentation measures only. Demand management measures were conspicuous by their absence.
- The introduction of submersible pumps goes against the interest of small and marginal farmers.
- Suggestions made by households for more equitable distribution of ground water included access of poor to ground water sources, increasing number of public stand posts, adequate representation of poor in water users associations and separate tubewells for weaker sections.