Report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources suggests inclusion of the subject ‘water’ in the concurrent list of the constitution

The Standing Committee on Water Resources (2012-13) has recently presented the Sixteenth Report of the Committee on ‘Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies' to the Lok Sabha. Some of the important recommendations/ observations of the Committee are included below

Need for inclusion of the subject 'water' in the Concurrent List of the Constitution to put in place a comprehensive legislative framework

The Committee observed that water is a prime natural resource, a basic human need and a precious national asset. Traditional water bodies have through the ages been providing sustenance to Indian agriculture and serve as storage reservoirs of water in monsoon dependent areas where there exist a shorter period of rainfall and a long dry spell with very high deviation of annual rainfall. Also, traditional water bodies are used in rural areas which, inter-alia, include various purposes, viz. domestic, drinking, irrigation, horticulture, etc. The Committee were of the considered view that there is an imperative need to ensure proper, efficient and sustainable management and development of water bodies all over the country through sustained inputs of efforts, funds and programme. In order to put in place a comprehensive legislative framework, the Committee reiterated the need for inclusion of the subject 'water' in the Concurrent List.

Need for compiling State-wise precise figures on the number and status of water bodies of the country

The Committee expressed their deep concern that an alarming number of water bodies are becoming permanently unusable due to salinity, dried up water bodies, water bodies destroyed beyond repair, sea water intrusion and industrial effluents, etc., The Committee, therefore, recommended that the Government compile a comprehensive and up to date information about the exact number and the status of water bodies spread all over the country State-wise to initiate an all-out, and integrated effort for repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies. Shockingly, the Ministry has not undertaken any study for identification of water bodies and has also not evolved any criteria for categorization of water bodies as large or small and the expenditure incurred on their upkeep and maintenance.

The Committee, therefore, strongly recommended that the Government in the first instance collect and compile such data and information at the earliest and place it on public domain such as WRIS and website of the Ministry so as to serve as a useful tool for policymakers, planners, bureaucrats, various water users and other stakeholders.

Effective mechanism for monitoring the water quality in water bodies and removal of encroachments on water bodies

Keeping in view the fact that pollution of surface water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, tanks etc., can  effect the quality of groundwater, the Committee recommended for issue of appropriate advisories to the State Governments to initiate an effective mechanism for monitoring the water quality in water bodies. The Committee have also strongly recommended for taking appropriate measures to heighten national awareness and for building a strong national programme for removal of encroachments on water bodies.

To vigorously pursue with the States to implement approved DPRs and to highlight the benefits arising out of the RRR of water bodies

The Committee observed that during the Xth Five Year Plan, the Government of India launched a Pilot Scheme in 2005 for Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of water bodies as a State sector scheme with a plan outlay of Rs.300 crore to be shared by the Centre and States in the ratio of 3:1. They also noted that the selection of States for the pilot scheme is made out of the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs)/ proposals submitted by the States to the CWC. Noting that the Government had approved the scheme on Repair Renovation and Restoration of water bodies for implementation in all States/ UTs during the XI Plan, the Committee urged that the Ministry of Water Resources vigorously pursue the matter with the States so that the approved DPRs are implemented. The Committee also recommended to highlight on multiple and huge benefits arising out of the RRR of water bodies through appropriate measures.

Urgent completion of census of all water bodies and allotment of unique code

The Committee have strongly recommended for early completion of the exercise of taking census of all water bodies and also allotment of unique code to them.

To explore the viability of State funding to private water bodies for possibility of inducing States/UTs to take up with owners of private water bodies and to incentivize them

The Committee noted with concern that as per the Third Census of Minor Irrigation (2005), there are 5.50 lakh water bodies in the country, out of which 2.39 lakhs are public water bodies and remaining 3.17 lakhs are private water bodies. The Committee were informed that the Scheme for RRR of water bodies does not cover 3.17 lakhs water bodies spread across the country. The Committee deplored exclusion of private water bodies from the RRR Scheme of the Government, which dents a gaping loop-hole in the otherwise laudable scheme, particularly as it is a necessity to preserve the water bodies. Noting that the Ministry's proposal is to cover public water bodies as the first priority, the Committee urge the Government to explore the viability of extending State funding to private water bodies during the XII Plan, or to at least explore the possibility of inducing States/UTs to take up with owners of such private water bodies and to incentivize them to take measures to revive, repair, renovate and develop water bodies by undertaking works such as desilting, repairing sluice work, pitching, repair of canals attached to the water bodies, etc.

To extend the evaluation works of WII on performance of National Wetland Conservation Programme to remaining 110 Wetlands and give more thrust by enhancing fund allocation stressed

The Committee noted that under the National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) initiated by the Government in 1987, the Ministry of Environment & Forests has identified 115 wetlands in 24 States and 2 UTs for conservation and management. Under it, 100% financial assistance is provided for implementation of Management Action Plans (MAPs) of identified wetlands and research projects for R&D activities in priority areas to supplement MAPs, and so far an amount of Rs.109.14 crore has been released to the concerned State Governments, including Rs.55.94 crore incurred during last 5 years.

Noting that conservation and management of the wetlands could contribute to the goal of repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies being carried out by the Ministry in 15 States of the country, the Committee recommended that the suggestions made by WII, Dehradun under MAPs for evaluation of work in 5 identified wetlands, viz. Pong Dam (Himachal Pradesh), Harike (Punjab), Deeper Beel (Assam), Chilika Lake (Odisha) and Tso Morari (J&K) may be taken up by the concerned Ministry for early remedial action.

To place before the Committee a comprehensive report showing the status of the projects and the expenditure incurred/likely to be incurred since the inception of the Scheme stressed

Taking note of the fact that the Ministry is responsible for the Scheme of RRR of water bodies, but the power of approval and sanction of a project under the Scheme is with Ministry of Finance and also that the Scheme of RRR of water bodies is only for XI Five Years Plan, and all the projects being sanctioned were supposed to be over by March 2012, the Committee, therefore, recommended that (a) a comprehensive report be placed before the Committee showing the status of the projects sanctioned, completed and on going and also the expenditure incurred and likely to be incurred -- State-wise and yearwise since the inception of the Scheme; (b) the Scheme, given its huge benefits, be extended in the 12th Plan; and (c) the entire responsibility for processing and sanctioning the projects under the Scheme be entrusted to the Ministry of Water Resources for its efficient implementation.

Need to elicit active participation of standing Committee of Panchayats in implementation of RRR in concerned States/UTs and setting up specific achievable targets within a specified timeframe desired

The Committee observed that regular monitoring of the physical and financial progress and the outcome of the projects is stipulated to be carried out at each stage. The Committee noted with displeasure that despite the efforts being made on the monitoring front by the Ministry and State Governments, little tangible progress has been made given the number of Schemes sanctioned. The number of projects completed are 142, out of 1,761 projects taken up in Odisha. Further, out of a total number of 3341 water bodies under RRR Scheme in the country, only 1481 had been shown to be completed by 18 September, 2012 as per the information received from Central Ground Water Board/State Governments. Further the tardy pace of completion of works is evident from the fact that Rs.374.66 and Rs.291.03 crore released during 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively under the Scheme.

The Committee, therefore, desired the Ministry to vigorously pursue with the States for eliciting the active participation of standing committee of Panchayats to actively implement RRR Scheme in all the States/UTs where it is being implemented.

Formulation of comprehensive guidelines for RRR of water bodies possibility to be explored

While strongly recommending that care and preservation of water bodies should figure prominently on all public/ mass campaign activities in print and electronic media, the Committee urged the Government to explore the possibility of drafting comprehensive guidelines on water bodies with a view to take urgent and effective steps for Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies.

Need to identify specific activities/works under MNREGA which could be dovetailed with the ongoing Scheme of RRR on water bodies

The Committee noted that the Government has made a plan for convergence of efforts made under other programmes such as MNREGA, Watershed Development Programme and scheme of Rural Drinking Water Supply. The Committee, therefore, recommended that the Ministry should identify specific activities/works under MNREGA which could be dovetailed with the ongoing Scheme of RRR on water bodies in order to avoid duplication of works, fund wastage and also achieve the long-term objective of rejuvenation and revitalisation of water bodies all over the country.

Source: Press release, MoWR

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