Drafting a new National water policy, 2012 without consulting the farmers would be meaningless

The efforts of Union Ministry of Water Resources and Central Water Commission to initiate a new National Water Policy is welcome. After going through the draft of National Water Policy 2012 (draft NWP 2012) and summary record of various consultations related to it, the following comments / suggestions, particularly related to participatory irrigation management aspects, are offered for consideration:

Author : Phanish Sinha

  • Given the situation that the farmers are using 83% of the total water use and the necessity to reduce water share in agriculture through efficient and effective water use (National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development envisages 69% by 2050), a detailed institutional framework with legal, technical and financial support mechanism need to be outlined in draft NWP 2012 to achieve this target.
  • There are more than 60000 Water User Associations (WUAs) covering around 14 million hectare area in the country and the numbers are growing. Still, draft NWP does not offer any resolve for their development and sustainability. In para 7.4, it is mentioned that Water User Associations (WUAs) will be given statutory powers to collect water charges, manage volumetric quantum of water and maintain distribution system and in para 9.4, it is mentioned that local institutions and WUAs shall be involved in planning and implementation of the project. Both, para 7.4 and para 9.4, reflect a diluted approach to participatory and community management of water resources on two counts.
  • Firstly, instead of envisioning viable, vibrant and sustainable WUAs to take care of integrated water resources management at micro-basin / local level, the policy only perceives them as extended arm of the government for fee-collection, water distribution amongst farmers and distribution system maintenance. Besides, there is no mention of technical, financial and capacity building support for WUAs to undertake their task.
  • Secondly, the role of government agencies, civil society and NGOs as complementary and supplementary organizations to WUAs with their functions and accountability do not find place in draft NWP
  • It is strange that not a single consultation has been organized to elicit the views of WUAs on draft State Water Policy and their role assigned in it.

The union ministry of water resources is organizing a special session on ‘scoping of peoples participation in water sector’ on 11 April, 2012 during India Water Week Celebrations. It would be appropriate if representatives of WUAs across the Country are invited to attend the sessions and a dialogue on draft NWP is initiated. This event should be followed by more WUA consultative workshops on draft NWP at state / regional level.

The policy should not be adopted in hurry. The policy needs much wider publicity through farmer friendly media tools (regional newspapers, TV, radio channels) and networks (Gram Sabha, WUAs, NGOs, KVKs, WALMIs etc) The input of real stakeholders is lacking at this stage and ‘gate-crashers’ appear to have more say in the current draft of NWP.
 

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