To deal with the looming water crisis in the country, the Ministry of Water Resources is planning to start a “mega exercise” to review around 500 water related laws of the Central and State governments and local authorities, in order to bring them in conformity with India’s national water policy.
“As per the new national water policy, all the existing Central, state or local water related legislations are to be reviewed. These will have to be amended to align them with the new water policy,” said a top level Water Resources Ministry official.
These laws are related to irrigation, drinking water, industrial water usage and several other issues. “This will be a mega exercise as there are around 500 such laws in the country. It will require lot of time but it is a very important requirement and needs to be done,” the official said.
The national water policy of 2012 notes the requirement of a national water framework law, which recognises “water not only as a scarce resource but also as a sustainer of life and ecology”. The policy seeks to focus on the looming crisis in the water sector and lay a roadmap on principles of equity, sustainability and good governance.
It envisages a national framework law as an umbrella statement of general principles governing the exercise of legislative and executive powers by the Centre, states and local governing bodies. “Acts may have to be modified accordingly,” the official added. The official explained that their “mega exercise is in the preliminary stage right now”.
“We are looking for experts – it could be a law university or others – as the exercise would require a lot of effort, time and resources. The encouraging part is that there are some laws that are repetitive in every state, which would make work a little easier. For example, irrigation law of Madya Pradesh may be similar to that of Uttar Pradesh,” the official added. The official was of the view that it may take a year before a roadmap for the exercise can be prepared. “But once it is done properly, it will definitely help not only us, but also all institutions across the country are taking an informed decision on the water policy,” the official added.
The new water policy calls for water use efficiency, setting up of a water regulatory authority by the states, integrated water resource planning at the basin level, preservation of river corridors, mapping of acquifers, removal of urban and rural disparities in the distribution of water and differential pricing.