Experts and non-governmental organisations working in the water sector have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to recognise people’s access to safe water as a fundamental human right, and to do away with the clause in the draft National Water Policy, 2012, which suggests that water services be privatised.
Gram sabhas and municipal wards in cities should be consulted before the National Water Resources Council discusses the draft at a meeting scheduled for December 28, and there should be a “clearly defined” bottom-up participatory mechanism for planning and decision-making and water allocation for different uses, the experts said.
“The proposal to have a regulatory authority in each State was uncalled for and the Maharashtra experience needs to be re-assessed,” they said. In the run-up to the meeting, some States have expressed reservations about water pricing and privatisation of services. Among those who wrote to the Prime Minister are the former Secretaries, E.A.S. Sarma and Ramaswamy Iyer; West Bengal Wasteland Development Corporation Chairman Kalyan Rudra; and activists Vandana Shiva, Sripad Dharmadikari and Himanshu Thakker of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.
They pointed out that the first draft of the policy had said in its clause 1.3 (v): “Access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation should be regarded as a right to life essential to full enjoyment of life and all other human rights;” but in the subsequent drafts, this clause was deleted.