This paper published in the Law, Environment and Development Journal aims at understanding the experience of implementation of the groundwater legislation act in the state of Maharashtra, which is among the few states that modified the law pertaining to groundwater to effectively address the issue of ownership and rights to groundwater and thereafter seriously tried to implement the modified law.
Groundwater available in underground aquifers is actually a common pool resource. Though a common pool resource, landowners were deemed to have unfettered right to groundwater under their lands and these rights were limited only to the extent that they should not in any way affect similar rights of other individuals. As there was insufficient understanding about the movement of water in the aquifer systems, rights to groundwater subsumed under the property rights to land was the legal position in India for a considerable period of time.
However, from 1970, efforts have been made to change the law governing groundwater. The evolution of law on groundwater is still in a flux. A particularly compelling case of modifying the law governing groundwater arises in water scarce regions of the country, where the basic subsistence need of drinking water of human and livestock population is met from groundwater, but alternate private uses of groundwater in combination with periodic failure of rains cause acute water scarcity.
This paper describes and analyses the experiences and the processes involved in the implementation of the groundwater legislation in Maharashtra. The paper is divided into the following sections:
2. Situation regarding groundwater in India
3. Evolution of groundwater regulation
4. Main provisions of the Maharashtra groundwater (regulation for drinking water purposes) Act 1993
- The act
- Subsequent developments: Maharashtra water resources regulatory authority act 2005
- The rules under Maharashtra groundwater (regulation for drinking water purposes) Act 1993
- Administrative arrangements regarding drinking water
5. Experience of Implementation
6. Official responses to cases reported under the act
7 Lacunae and constraints in making the act an effective instrument
8 Conclusions and implications
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