Writing on water
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How is a WRRA in every state reconcilable with democratic decentralisation, and the constitutional mandate for the devolution of local water management to panchayati raj institutions? This is a contentious idea and the NWP need not have rushed to endorse it. The one active example of such a model is the Maharashtra one, and it has been strongly criticised by many. There is a Planning Commission sub-group report on a model water regulatory system and another report on the model groundwater bill. Has the official drafting committee for NWP 2012 seen these reports and taken their findings into account?
The paragraph on "demand management" seems to argue only for a degree of moderation and not for drastic restraint, which is what a grave crisis calls for. On the supply side, how should one prioritise different interventions, that is, large projects for storage and long-distance water transfer, groundwater extraction and local augmentation through community-led rainwater-harvesting and micro-watershed development? There is no explicit mention but the old preference for large interventions seems to linger on.
On inter-state water disputes, a permanent tribunal has been recommended, but the more important questions are about the principles of water-sharing, the composition of the tribunal, a change from adversarial court-like proceedings to a committee-like problem-solving one. The NWP does not go into these matters. One is also puzzled by the statement that "there should be a forum at the national level to deliberate upon issues relating to water and evolve consensus, co-operation and reconciliation amongst party states", given that there is already a constitutional body called the inter-state council.
On the displacement of people by projects and their resettlement and rehabilitation, the NWP is silent, probably because there is a separate National Rehabilitation Policy, and a bill is under discussion. However, a brief reference to that subject might have been in order. A recommendation that "minimum displacement" should be among the criteria for project selection would have been very useful.
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