In the wake of apprehensions expressed by the States over proposed national legal framework on water resources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday sought to allay fears by saying the Centre has no intention to encroach their rights on water management.
“I would like to emphasise the need to see the proposed national legal framework in proper perspective. The framework would be an umbrella statement of general principles governing the exercise of legislative, executive or devolved powers by the Centre, the States and the local governing bodies.
“The central government does not wish to encroach, in any manner, upon the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of States or to centralise water management,” he said.
Dr. Singh was addressing the sixth meeting of the National Water Resources Council, which is likely to adopt the latest national water policy.
The policy proposes to have a national legal framework on water issues, which the state governments have been opposing since the draft was put in public domain in January, 2012.
Referring to the issue of depleting groundwater, the Prime Minister said inspite of its “vital importance” there is no regulation for its extraction and coordination among competing uses.
“We need to initiate steps to minimise misuse of groundwater by regulating the use of electricity for its extraction,” he said.
Dr. Singh said rapid economic growth and urbanisation were widening the demand supply gap and worsening the country’s water-stress index.
“The situation calls for judicious management of our limited water resources and the paradigm shift in our approach. ...we therefore need to rise above political, ideological and regional differences and also move away from a narrow project-centric approach to a broader holistic approach to water management,” he said.
The Prime Minister said integrated water resources planning at the basin level, conservation of water, preservation of river corridors, recharging of the aquifers and their sustainable management and improvement of water use efficiency are among the broad areas that need “our urgent attention.”
“Our irrigation systems need to shift from a narrow engineering-construction-centric approach to a more multi-disciplinary and participatory approach. Incentives need to be provided to narrow the gap between irrigation capacities created and those being utilised,” he said.
Dr. Singh also stressed the need to move towards transparent and participatory mechanisms of pricing of water by the primary stakeholders themselves.
“The local communities have to be involved actively in the management of water resources,” he said.
Noting that outlays for the water sector have been increased substantially, the Prime Minister said these outlays will deliver only if they are matched and supported by better management and good governance.
“An urgent national consensus on the common denominators of water governance is therefore essential and the first critical step towards achieving water security and sustainability for all,” he added.