E.J. James, water management expert and former Executive Director of the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), has warned that the recently released draft of the national water policy contains suggestions that will usurp the State government’s rights.
Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. James, who played a key role in shaping the State government’s water policy released in 1992 and 2008, stressed the need for the State government to take a critical look at the draft document released by the Ministry of Water Resources.
Dr. James, who is the Director of the Water Institute at Karunya University, Coimbatore, said the laws and institutions, as proposed in the draft Bill, would take away several of the powers exercised by the State governments.
Pointing out that the legislation made by the State government and the constitution of the Dam Safety Authority were being questioned in the Supreme Court, Dr. James remarked that a comprehensive legislation with regard to inter-State rivers and valleys, as suggested in the draft national water policy 2012 “might not be a welcome move for many States, including the State of Kerala.”
Though the Kerala State Water Policy 2008 stated that any further inter-State water sharing should be mandated by legislation by the State, the Centre may take over this role if the draft policy was accepted as such, said Dr.James.
Pointing out that some of the State’s potential rivers such as the Bharathapuzha, Periyar, Chaliyar, Chalakudy, and Valapattanam had their upper catchments in the neighbouring States and the upper catchments of some of the tributaries of the Cauvery were in Kerala, he said the legislation proposed under the draft national water policy may insist on establishment of basin authorities with powers to plan, manage, and regulate utilisation of water resources in these basins.
Would such authorities be welcome from the point of view of the States, Dr. James asked?. He wondered, if it happened, what would be the fate of the State-level river authority proposed in the Kerala State Water Policy 2008.
The draft document stated that after meeting the minimum quantity of water required for survival of human beings and the ecosystem, water must be used as an economic commodity and advocated pricing of water to promote efficient use and maximising the value from water. This was contrary to the statements in the Kerala State Water Policy 2008.