Updated on 9 October, 2019
Context In December 2018, NITI Aayog released its ‘Strategy for New India @75’. The strategy for ‘water resources’ is as insipid and unrealistic as the successive National Water Policies (NWP). NITI Aayog’s strategy for water resources is a continuation of failed policies of the past Why the ‘strategy for new India @75’ is insipid and unrealistic with respect to augmenting water resources?
- Carry forwarding past management failures
- River basin management: The integrated management concept has been around for 70 years, but not even one moderate size basin has been managed anywhere in the world.
- River basin organisations (RBOs): Not a single one has been established for any major basin after the NWP of 1987 recommended RBOs.
- water resources regulatory authority(WRA): Maharashtra established a WRA in 2005. But far from an improvement in managing resources, water management in Maharashtra has gone from bad to worse.
- command area development (CAD): from faulty survey and design, erroneous estimates, irregularities in tendering, violations in land acquisition processes and tardy execution of work.
- Unrealistic Goals In the Strategy @ 75
- Goals include providing adequate and safe piped water supply to all citizens and livestock;
- providing irrigation to all farms; providing water to industries; ensuring continuous and clean flow in the “Ganga and other rivers along with their tributaries”, i.e. in all Indian rivers;
- assuring long-term sustainability of groundwater
- safeguarding proper operation and maintenance of water infrastructure;
- utilising surface water resources to the full potential of 690 billion cubic metres; improving on-farm water-use efficiency; and
- ensuring zero discharge of untreated effluents from industrial units. These goals are not just over ambitious, but absurdly unrealistic, particularly for a five-year window
- Not even one of these goals has been achieved in any State in the past 72 years. Some goals, such as ‘Har Khet Ko Pani (irrigation to every field)’, are simply not achievable.
- Lack of accountability
- Allocation of responsibility has not been specified. For eg clause like ‘producer’s responsibility’ is missing.
- Powers of authorities like water ministry and environment ministry have been not specified clearly.
- Major Constraints have not been identified like : irrigation potential created but not being used, poor efficiency of irrigation systems, indiscriminate use of water in agriculture, poor implementation and maintenance of projects, cropping patterns not aligned to agroclimatic zones, subsidised pricing of water, citizens not getting piped water supply, and contamination of groundwater.
- Promoting solar pumps at the cost of unrestricted pumping of groundwater, and will further aggravate the problem of a steady decline of groundwater levels.
India’s water problems can be solved with existing knowledge, technology and available funds. “History repeats itself” is a correct phase to emphasize NITI Aayog's failure to recognize past problem will help India continue walking on the unsustainable path. Read More: The Composite Water Management Index 2.0 | Delhi Tap Water Not Safe To Drink – BIS Test | Water Pollution and Related Legislation
- Arresting misuse of PIL: In order to complete the Ken-Betwa River interlinking project, the India-Nepal Pancheshwar project, and the Siang project in Northeast India the Government needs a plan to arrest the blatant misuse of PIL for environmental posturing, not only these but also other infrastructure projects will remain bogged down in courtrooms.
- Legislative measures: Stalled reforms like the National Water Framework law, significant amendments to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act and the Dam Safety Bill need to be expedited.