President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday called for devising a “broad over-arching” national legal framework that will pave way for essential legislation on water governance in the country. He described the current legal framework pertaining to water in India as “non-uniform and inadequate”.
Mr. Mukherjee said a concerted effort is required to make the water sector policies and regulations “clear, coordinated and comprehensive” to be able to mitigate the impact of the looming water crisis. “Usable water is a scarce commodity. The pricing mechanism has to act as an incentive for saving and disincentive for wastage,” he pointed out, suggesting that the role of water users associations has to be strengthened by giving them adequate powers for collection of water charges and management of the water distribution system.
He was speaking after inaugurating the Second India Water Forum organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in association with the Union Ministries of Urban Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation and the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank.
“The provision of safe drinking water has become a serious development initiative around the globe. There is a significant portion of humanity which remains denied of access to this basic necessity. The reach of the poor to safe drinking water has to be enhanced by developing mid-market technologies that can deliver affordable water treatment devices. Micro finance institutions have to be engaged to acquire devices and encourage shared access to safe drinking water,” he said.
Referring to the threat of climate change as “real and contemporary”, Mr. Mukherjee cautioned that the altering river flows, decreasing groundwater recharge, intensifying floods and droughts, and allowing salt water intrusion in coastal aquifers, can severely impact water resources.
Calling for better utilisation of water, the President said: “Historically, agriculture has been the biggest consumer of water in India. But due to unprecedented urbanisation, urban water demand has compelled the shift of water resources from rural to urban consumers creating an inter-sectoral rivalry. With the sources of water remaining unchanged, this inter-sectoral competition over allocation of water is likely to rise in future. Addressing this situation calls for efficient allocation of water between various sectors.”
He cited the example of Israel–where effective water policies and technological advances have led to water use efficiency in agriculture--as a model that India can borrow from.