Odisha Groundwater (Regulation, development and management) Bill, 2011

A press release by Odisha Water Forum expressing concerns on the draft Bill.

Content courtesy: Odisha Water Forum 

The Odisha Groundwater (Regulation, Development and Management) Bill, 2011 has been placed before the Odisha Legislative Assembly in this session. Odisha Water Forum has gone through the contents of this bill. While Odisha Water Forum appreciates the initiative of the Government of Odisha to regulate development and management of groundwater, it is concerned about the fact that this bill does not address the fundamental concerns regarding groundwater management.

The bill in the present form entirely fails to consider the basic issue of legal status of groundwater and has no social dimension and no environmental dimension. This bill is not based on the new model bill dated 29th July 2011 that addresses most of these concerns.

Government of India, since 1970, has been urging the States to legislate for the regulation and management of groundwater. At different times model bills were circulated to facilitate the state legislations. Though four decades has passed since it was first felt by the GoI to regulate groundwater, Odisha has not been successful in enacting law for groundwater. On 29th July 2011 the latest version of model bill has been circulated. This model bill addresses most of the concerns with regard to groundwater. But the Orissa Groundwater (Regulation, Development and Management) Bill, 2011 is based on the older versions of the model bills circulated and does not incorporate the elements in the July 2011 model bill.

Odisha Water Forum urges the policy makers to defer the enactment of this bill. While Odisha has waited so long for this legislation, it won’t hurt to wait for a few more months and come out with an all encompassing legislation on groundwater.

The bill proposes to form Ground Water Regulation Authority that will regulate extraction of groundwater in the notified areas (where water is scarce). But, without bringing groundwater into the public trust domain, the Authority of the GWA might be challenged in the Court of Law, as the land owner has the right to groundwater under the Indian Easement Act.

Similarly this Bill exempts extraction of groundwater for the domestic and agricultural use in the notified areas from taking permission from the Authority. But, the definition of agriculture in the bill could very well include industrial agriculture, commercial agriculture and the allied industries. The bill again does not talk about the right of the landless on groundwater, role of the Gram Panchayats in the management of groundwater, equity and environmental concerns. Again this bill has not been put in public domain to get the feed back from the concerned citizens  and organizations, that is against the spirit of the State Water Policy 2007. In this context Odisha Water Forum appeals to the State Legislature to postpone the enactment for the time being and do it after referring the model bill of 29th July 2011, incorporating the present concerns and consulting the citizenry. 

Please see below the model bill as well as the draft bill tabled in the Odisha Legislative Assembly as attachments. A note (in Oriya) demanding the stalling of the tabled bill is also attached. 

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