Apr. 10, 2012 -- During his inauguration address at India Water Week in New Delhi this week, India Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh underlined that the planning, development and management of water resources must keep pace with current realities.
Dr. Singh said one of the problems in achieving better management of water is that the current institutional and legal structures that deal with water in the country are inadequate, fragmented and therefore need urgent reform. Referring to the suggestion that a broad over-arching national legal framework of general principles on water is necessary to pave the way for essential legislation on water governance in every State, Dr. Singh added that the country needs to reflect on these and other proposals to implement an integrated and coherent water policy.
Stating that the National Water Mission sets a target of 20% improvement in water use efficiency, Dr. Singh said it is particularly critical in agriculture sector which uses about three fourth of water resources. He said the management of irrigation systems should move away from a narrow engineering-construction-centric approach to a more multi-disciplinary and participatory approach. Dr. Singh added that there is a need to move towards transparent and participatory mechanisms of pricing of water by the primary stakeholders themselves.
The Prime Minister called for giving renewed vigour to all schemes that involve water over the next five years. He added that India need to address issues that come in the way of convergence and integration of programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Integrated Watershed Management Programme, the Programme on Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of Water Bodies and the Rainfed Area Development Programme.
Expressing concern over declining groundwater table, Dr. Manmohan Singh pointed out that the present legal situation gives every land holder the right to pump unlimited quantities of water from a bore well on his own ground. There is no regulation of ground water extraction and no coordination among competing uses. Stating that the inadequate and sub-optimal pricing of both power and water is promoting the misuse of groundwater, Dr. Singh said that the country need to move to a situation where ground-water can be treated as a common property resource.
The Prime Minister called for mapping aquifers and promoting participatory management of aquifers to ensure sustainable and equitable use and promoting cropping patterns which are aligned with the groundwater actually available. He also stressed on examining seriously the proposal to have a clear legal framework to govern the use of scarce groundwater resources. Dr. Singh added that in the absence of sound legal framework, drinking water systems often lose the contest. He said the Planning Commission has identified the challenge of managing water resources in a rational and sustainable manner as one of the critical challenges in the Twelfth Five year Plan.
In his address, Minister of Water Resources and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal called for major structural changes in the way water supply systems are managed. He said that increasing supply of water is cost extensive as most of the cheaper options have already been utilised. He pointed out that the cost of harnessing new resources and techniques for augmenting water supply will be much higher and therefore demand side management is the more economical option. Shri Bansal said that for credible knowledge base of ground water resources, Ministry of Water Resources has launched a Web-based Ground Water Information System, putting in public domain, the ground water data.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture, Kumari Selja, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan and Minister of State for Water Resources and Minority Affairs, Shri Vincent H. Pala were present on the occasion.
The first international event in the series of India Water Week being organized during April 10-14, 2012 is focusing on important themes of water, energy and food security. About 1000 participants from India and abroad are participating in the event where about 200 experts including 30 invited speakers drawn from across the world will make presentations on various issues.