New water policy more contentious; least helpful in tackling existing issues

The new water policy (NWP) draft 2012 is reportedly replete with more contentious issues and least helpful in tackling existing issues. The formulation of new draft policy has been facilitated in an undemocratic way sans participation of all stakeholders. Undoubtedly the draft explicitly states that water needs to be managed as a community resource held by the state under public trust doctrine, but concurrently it underscores the need to treat water as an “economic good”. Instead of treating water as ‘economic good’, it should be treated as sustainable development instrument.

Author : Dr. Arvind Kumar

Viewed in a broad spectrum, the draft policy does not seem to offer anything significantly different from what the old one suggested; only the wordings are different. The emphasis in NWP on the privatisation of water delivery services and that water be priced is likely to be met with strong opposition from all quarters. Apart from adversely impacting the agriculture sector, it is likely to affect the industrial sector in a big way owing to controversial clauses. There is no solution to narrow down disparities between water-deficit and water-surplus regions in the NWP.

The application of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in specific areas is not clearly demarcated in NWP and the promotion of public-public cooperation finds no reference at any stage. The sanctity of public trust doctrine, under which access to water as a finite, life-giving resource, is regarded as a fundamental right, should be maintained.

The NWP should ultimately take a holistic view of the entire gamut of water-related issues and provide rational and sustainable solutions. The reference to establish India Water Hub as a nodal agency to deal with water related issues at national, regional and local levels is conspicuous of its absence in the new draft policy. The task of formulating comprehensive, all-inclusive and provider of holistic solutions national water policy could have been facilitated conveniently if hub had been in existence.

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