PMO open to single water panel

The Water Ministry will today discuss the future of groundwater management in the country

August 24, 2016 02:21 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:55 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

CWC members check the water level at the Prakasam Barrage in Vijayawada. —PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

CWC members check the water level at the Prakasam Barrage in Vijayawada. —PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), it is learnt, is receptive to the idea of forming the proposed National Water Commission (NWC) by merging the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).

The NWC was the key recommendation of a report submitted last month by a committee headed by water expert Mihir Shah that was tasked with reorganising river water management in the country.

This comes ahead of a crucial meeting in the Ministry of Water Resources on Wednesday, where the future of surface and groundwater management in the country will be deliberated on.

Since 1945 the CWC has been tasked with managing surface water and its associated structures such as dams and barrages. The CGWB, on the other hand, is largely concerned with the quality of groundwater. The proposed NWC pushes for an integrated policy, greater cognisance of over-extraction of groundwater. It will also maintain environmental stability by ensuring States that share water do not draw from river basins more than what is ecologically tenable.

According to documents viewed by The Hindu, top officials in the PMO, the NITI Aayog, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation decided in a meeting on July 28 that a group headed by the Secretary of the water ministry would look at the proposals of the Mihir Shah committee and this group would “examine the possibility of integrating the CWC and CGWB.”

States will get more power

As of today, States must get a technical clearance from the CWC before they can go ahead with constructing dams and other reservoirs. Were an NWC to come into being, this power would devolve to the States and other research institutions, with the Central body becoming a research organisation and a repository of data on India’s river basins.

The Shah report was scathing in its assessment of the CWC’s competence to manage India’s future water needs. “CWC and CGWB suffer from a lack of professionals,” said the summary of the report. “Several States testified that huge delays in techno-economic appraisal by the CWC had become a matter of concern.”

However, the possibility of an integration hasn’t gone down well with the CWC. In an e-mail to The Hindu, an association of engineers associated with the organisation said the Shah committee report was “based on incorrect water resource scenario, wrong interpretation of data, selective literature review to suit certain ideology and is not aligned with constitutional & legal framework of the country.”

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