Monday, December 31, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
1. Prime Minister and ex officio chairman of NWRC
2. Chief Ministers, concerned Union Ministers and Planning Commission, all members of NWRC
Respected Sirs and Madams:
Greetings from Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)!
In view of the National Water Resources Council (NWRC) meeting to be held on December 28, 2012 to consider the National Water Policy 2012, a group of eminent persons and leading organisations have written a letter to the NWRC for consideration of the Prime Minister led NWRC.
Water Initiatives of Odisha (WIO) has endorsed this letter along with eminent people like Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP, former Govt of a India secretaries like Shri Ramaswamy Iyer, EAS Sarma, Chairman of Govt of W Bengal's W Bengal Wasteland Development Corporation Dr Kalyan Rudra, well known environmentalist Dr Vandanda Shiva, persons from well known groups including CSE, among others
We are pasting below the letter for your information.
Thanks and regards,
December 26, 2012Open Letter to National Water Resources Council
Suggestions for National Water Policy 2012
1. Prime Minister and ex officio chairman of NWRC
2. Chief Ministers, concerned Union Ministers and Planning Commission, all members of NWRC
Respected Sirs and Madams:
We understand that the National Water Resources Council is to meet on Dec 28, 2012 to consider the latest draft of the National Water Policy, and finalise the same. Some of us have been writing to the drafting committee and the Ministry about both process of formulation and content of the National Water Policy 2012 and in this context would like to reiterate the following points for your consideration when you meet to finalise the National Water Policy 2012.
Process of formulation of NWP The National Water Policy concerns and affects every person and every ecosystem of the country. Hence the process of formulation of the NWP should involve every gram sabha in villages, every ward in cities and all concerned civil society groups. A credible process would thus involve availability of the draft policy and also a credible report giving details of experience with the earlier (current NWP of 2002) NWP, in language and manner that people can understand. These basic requirements have not been satisfied and we would urge the NWRC to recommend such a process.
Suggestions for some key aspects of NWP 2012
· Right to Water The first draft of the NWP 2012 made public in January 2012 had said in its clause 1.3(v): “Access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation should be regarded as a right to life essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.” However, in the subsequent drafts, this sentence has been deleted. We urge the NWRC to add this draft in the NWP 2012 with an emphasis that right to water should be considered fundamental human right. In this context we would like to add that the Indian government is a signatory to the UN General Assembly resolution number 64/292 of 28th July 2010 “Human right to water and sanitation”, approved by 120 countries. This is now legally binding in international law; UN Human Rights Council decision of September 28, 2011 also is relevant in this context, as also the SC pronouncements reading Right to water in the constitution provisions including article 21.
· No case for privatisation In this context we would like to suggest that the draft NWP 2012 suggesting privatisation of water services should be deleted as it is in contradiction with the Right to Water as mentioned above. The global trend is also for re-municipalisation, reversing the privatisation of water that was implemented in few places, including in France (e.g. Paris), US (e.g. Atlanta), Italy, Uruguay, Netherlands, among others.
· Shun Failed big irrigation projects Data from Union government and several state governments show that over the last two decades, there has been no addition to the net area irrigated by major and medium irrigation projects. The CAG reports, as also the Planning Commission has also endorsed this. The recent exposure of massive corruption in big irrigation projects Maharashtra is a sign of the same disease. The NWP needs to recognise this reality and ensure optimal utilisation of existing irrigation infrastructure, make sustenance of groundwater lifeline central focus of water resources development and stop funding new and comprehensively review ongoing major and medium irrigation projects.
· Governance NWP needs to note the need for clearly defined decentralised, bottom up participatory mechanism for planning, decision making and allocation of water for different uses, none exist today. In absence of such legally enforceable mechanisms, there is serious threat to the water, food and livelihood security to millions of people all over India as water is being diverted for urban (beyond justifiable needs) and industrial use when there is none for basic food production and livelihoods of farmers.
· Law to protect Rivers NWP needs to stipulate the need to protect rivers through legislation; Today Rivers in India have no protection and rivers with freshwater flow all round the year has become endangered species. This is also relevant in the context of recently concluded COP 11 on Convention on Bio Diversity in Hyderabad during Oct 8-19. 2012. It is well known that freshwater sources, including rivers are some of the largest repositories of biodiversity and they need to be protected also from the perspectives of livelihoods of millions of people and climate change. Unfortunately, today impacts of dams on riverine biodiversity, livelihoods are not even assessed, leave aside mitigated or compensation for those affected. Revision of NWP is an occasion to emphasise and make amends in this situation.
· Recognise the water saving potential of SRI The NWP needs to explicitly recognise the huge water saving potential of System of Rice Intensification, and related methods like System of Wheat Intensification, Sustainable Sugarcane initiative, among others. This can go a long way also in reducing the load on groundwater draft.
· State Water Regulatory Authorities The draft NWP 2012 says (sec 7.2), “A Water Regulatory Authority (WRA) should be established in each State”. This is uncalled for since the experience of only functioning Water Regulatory Authority is far from encouraging. Maharashtra experience needs to be evaluated and until there is encouraging experience over a prolonged period, such a recommendation is uncalled for.
· Data management NWP should recognise the need for making all water data pro actively in public domain, setting up the process for generating and updating eco - hydrological data linkages in all rivers with the long term objective of arriving at and allocating e flows based on such a data, encouraging ways to increase soil capacity to hold moisture.
· Dam Decommissioning With the increasingly aging population of large dams in India, the issues of safety and decommissioning of unsafe/ uneconomical dams becomes very important and the FAC must take note of this as part of dam project cycle while considering new dams/ reviewing existing dams every 10 years.
We welcome some of the positive changes brought about in the latest draft of NWP 2012 compared to the earlier ones and also publication of the agenda of the NWRC on the website of the Ministry of Water Resources. However, we believe NWRC needs to go further and make recommendations along the lines suggested above. In this context we would also like to draw your attention to the comprehensive alternative draft of National Water Policy brought out by Shri Ramasway Iyer, former secretary, Union Water Resources Ministry, the draft was published in Economic & Political Weekly issue of June 25, 2011.
Thanking you for your attention,
1. EAS Sarma, former secretary, Govt of India, Andhra Pradesh
2. Ramaswamy Iyer, former Secretary, Govt of India, Delhi
3. Kalyan Rudra, Chairman, W Bengal Wasteland Development Corp, W Bengal
4. Dr Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology, Delhi
5. Issac, Kshithij, Prabhakar, People's Campaign for Right to Water- Karnataka
6. Ranjan Panda, Water Initiatives Odisha
7. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jansangathan, Uttarakhand
8. Dr Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Kerala
9. Sitaram Shelar, Pani Haq Samiti, Mumbai
10. Raju Bhise, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action, Mumbai
11. Suhas Paranjpe, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Mumbai
12. K J Joy, SOPPECOM & Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India, Pune
13. Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
14. Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune
15. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, former professor, IIM Bangalore, Dt Tehri
16. Soumitra Ghosh, NESPON, W Bengal
17. Gopal Krishna, Toxics Watch Alliance, New Delhi
18. Sudhirendar Sharma, Ecology Foundation, Delhi
19. Janak Daftari, Jal Biradari, Mumbai
20. Ravindranath, River Basin Friends, Assam
21. Nitya Jacob, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi
22. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
“We are in a difficult water war situation. The industries took away our land, water and livelihoods. In return, they have employed a few youth of our area. Majority still survive on agriculture and water is key for that. Now, as we have to compete with the industries for the increasingly decreasing water resources, we find ourselves in a typical situation. So, if we ask the industries not to exploit water, our own children employed there may lose their jobs. And if their jobs are retained, a large number of farmers will lose their livelihood”…
Lubru Barik, farmer from Talab village
Once an official of Govt. of Odisha said ‘farmers are unskilled labours’. I replied, “Each farmer of the state, despite being in all sort of problems and facing govt. apathy, can manage his/her farming and family. Can you tell us why all of your farming demonstration centres are in disaster?’ I further asked, ‘you take lakhs in salary and cannot even produce a profit and we don’t get anything out of farming and still can manage to be in business. Who is skilled and who is unskilled?”….
Murari Prasad Purohit, farmer
Saturday, December 15, 2012
We have seen agitations for development projects carried by both rich and poor; urbanites and rural folks. While for the urban rich development means huge constructions that bring them money, for the rural poor it’s all about their right to their Mother Land, the natural resources. So we often see agitations by urban rich are driven by money power and that by rural poor are sustained by their love & respect for natural resources…
Friday, December 14, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Monday, December 3, 2012
Dear Prime Minister of India,
We need safe and free flowing water to play. Don’t limit our Rights to a few litres of water per day.
The Draft National Water Policy 2012 asks us to take a few litres of water as our Right and give away rest of it as ‘commodity’ for private companies to trade.
Don’t you think we are better off playing in water bodies that are left free from clutches of pollution and privatization?
Don’t you intend to give us a safe and healthy Childhood?
We the Children of India
Come lets work together. Please join our Campaign "Clean Water Bodies are Children's Rights".
To know more visit the campaign page, like it and write to us at email@example.com
Sunday, December 2, 2012
We are turning fast into a hedonistic world in which a select class of influential persons, in search of their selfish pleasure, is propagating policies that allow natural resources to turn tradable commodities and poor people as sacrificial goats. This world seems to be deriving its driving knowledge from cheapness of the cinematic ethic and the vulgarity of commercial music…
Monday, November 26, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Friday, November 23, 2012
First Invitation for Participation
Regional Dialogue on River Mahanadi
“Building a People’s Agenda for Management of River Mahanadi”
Sambalpur – 23 and 24 December 2012
Organised by: Water Initiatives Odisha, and Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhatisgarh
Mahanadi, touted as a water surplus river, is in fact dying. While the river’s water is on a receding path, the allocation of water to industrial houses and urbanisation is increasing. The changed priorities in managing the water resources are taking a heavy toll on both the quantity and quality of the river water. In fact, this most important peninsular river of the country has become the most controversial of all.
With the increased industrialisation, commercialisation and urbanisation in the river basin, fights over the water has also increased. Farmers, fisher folks and common people have been struggling hard to access the river water. The river is now heavily polluted and the current blind push for Thermal Power Plants is further worsening the plight of the Mother River of both Odisha and Chhatisgarh.
The management of the river needs urgent attention of both the people and policy makers. Most importantly both the major riparian states i.e. Odisha and Chhatisgarh must start discussing and form a whole new strategy to manage the river keeping in mind its current status of issues and problems.
With the above in background, Water Initiatives Odisha and Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh are organising a two day long Dialogue on River Mahanadi which is aimed at ““Building a People’s Agenda for Management of River Mahanadi”.
In this Dialogue, we aim at chalking out a plan for building an understanding on the stress that Mahanadi faces today and then build a consensus on a people’s agenda to be submitted to the state governments as well as to take them to the people of the states.
If you are interested in the issue and want to participate please write back to us and we can discuss further. Please mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and call us at 09437050103/09937561700.
Look forward to hear from you.
Thanks and regards
Ranjan Panda, Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Gautam Kumar Bandyopadhyay, Convenor, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhatisgarh
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in Odisha for more than two decades now.
Nadi Ghati Morcha is a Chhattisgarh based people’s organisation struggling for community rights over natural resources and promote water centric economy to get justice and equity.
The Government of Odisha, while offering 60% Block Grant (very controversial and I cannot understand this mathematics, so don't ask me what is this. Just remember its peanuts) to school teachers, has put a condition. If the pass percentage of the children reduces their salary will also go down. So, its a 'fluctuating pay' offer.
Now, can I ask the government the following questions:
1. Can you reduce the salary of the staff of Water Resources department of the state because the per capita water availability of water in the state has gone down by more than 70 per cent in five decades?
2. Can you reduce the salary of the staff of Forests and Environment department because our forest coverage has gone down by almost 50 per cent in the last half century and dense forest cover in the state has almost vanished? Also because the pollution load of the state has grown by thousands of times.
3. Can you reduce the salary of the staff of the Agriculture Department because millions of farmers are leaving farming and thousands are committing suicide due to degradation of the conditions and compensations?
4. Why are you hell bent to kill the future of the children of the common people of the state who these teachers teach? Is it a conspiracy to kill the already public education system in favour of the 'education business' your Corporate Masters are owning and promoting in the state??
Q. How long will the journey take?
A. As long as it takes to reach the destination…J
(A friend who just called me after boarding a train answers my question)
(Date: 21st November 2012)
Death does not come knocking your door but certainly gives you two options much before it arrives. You can either die as a son of the soil or for a handful of soil for your ashes to be rested. You have to make a choice when you think you are still alive…
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Words have their natural limitations and hence surrender to emotions very often. This is because we learn words but are born with emotions. Sometimes we have words but they still tend to surrender to emotions. That’s why often in grief, when we lose words to console, we share the sorrow with our tears…
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
Light finds a synonym in smile. We did not create both of these but are their greatest beneficiaries. By making Diwali a festival to aggravate our aggressive obsession of spending and burning money, we are demeaning the very creation of this culture that is supposed to spread smiles and light…
Spread Light, Spread Smiles!!
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Greetings from Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)!
As you know WIO has been at the forefront of action and advocacy in water, environment and climate change issues for more than two decades now. We thank you very much for your continued support and cooperation.
This email comes to you with a special purpose, informing you about a new campaign we are launching. This is about giving the children their right to play in safe water bodies. As you can see from the attached campaign poster, playing freely and in safe environments is very vital for growth of our children. However, with increasing pollution our children are no more getting the opportunity to play in safe water bodies. We want to raise this issue with the parents, people in general and more importantly with the policy makers of this country to ensure that each child of the country has the right to play in safe water bodies such as ponds and rivers.
As always, we count on you a lot to make this campaign a big success. As you are aware, WIO is not a registered or formal network. Its an informal yet vibrant network which is enriched by the presence and support of people like you. We always bank on our member individuals and organisations for success of our endeavours. Your role in building and strengthening this campaign will be very vital and we are sure you will be with us in this effort.
Initially the campaign will be targeted at urban areas of the state. Later, we want to take this up at national level in both urban and rural areas. Depending on the experience we will also add on other issues such as safe drinking water, sanitation and related rights and needs of the children of the nation.
May we request you to please help spread the word of the campaign among your friends, members and contacts.
We are planning to launch it formally on 14th November 2012 (Children's Day) at Sambalpur. But would like that to spread to other cities in gradual course of time.
Please let us know if this campaign idea interests you and if you would like to be part of it. We can discuss further details then.
Look forward to hear from you and your positive support.
Thanks and regards
Ranjan K Panda
Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!
You can also mail me at: ranjan.waterman@facebook.
Please join our group 'Save Rivers Save Civilizations' at http://www.facebook.com/
Water talks to me, I speak for Water...
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in India for more than two decades now.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Monday, November 5, 2012
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Friday, November 2, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Just heard that a friend Manoj Kumar Kandher died of snake bite. We are really very much saddened by this news and we pray God that his soul rests in peace.
With this however I would like to raise a critical question on the health system of the nation. Heard that Manoj, who worked in foundation at Delhi that works on Health issues, had visited his village in Bargarh district during puja vacations. He went to the canal to bathe with his child where a snake bit him. As soon as he realized this, he dropped his child at home and drove his bike to the nearby hospital at Thuapali only to realize there is no help he could get from there. He was referred to V.S.S. Medical College & Hospital at Burla. Since its very far he preferred to go to another nearby hospital at Remunda but fell senseless on the way. Locals took him to a private nursing home where he got some first aid treatment and then referred to Burla again. Burla being still far, they took him to Bargarh district head quarters hospital. He had then fallen very critical and succumbed to the snake bite.
This raises serious questions on our health system. It is widely known in the state that our health systems are not reachable for the poor people in remote rural and tribal areas. However, Thuapali is not a remote village, nor was Manoj a poor fellow who could not pay for the health services. However, our health system does not reach beyond Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and a few select cities where all our doctors and health infrastructures exist and are promoted with tax payers' money.
This is how we are developing an equitable growth model where our Corporate dalal netas and complacent bureaucrats are conveniently sitting in their Bhubaneswar luxurious flats by looting the people of the state. When it comes to mine our resources and displace our people they use all their forces to exploit us all in the name of growth of the state. However, when it comes to provide health, education and other basic services they provide all that in the capital city and select urban locations.
Manoj's yatra from Dilli to Palli proved fatal. Unless we raise our voice, the trend of promoting blind and unsustainable urbanization in the country at the cost of villages and villagers will just grow fast.
Manoj is no more with us. However, let his spirit guide us towards a new revolution!
Sharing a small experience in life about Bhubaneswar based unethical water researchers/NGO consultants and their karnama:
A few years back, a group of researchers (who posed as my friends because we had met several times on issues of mutual concern) supported by a national forum (that works on water issues) said they want to join hands with us on a research work on Hirakud dam and the water conflicts. We readily agreed because we found these people, who hail from Bhubaneswar, reasonable and talented people.
So, based on the strength of our consent, they wrote a proposal to get funding for the research from a foundation. They used our previous research and write ups on Hirakud dam issues extensively (in many places copied verbatim) in that proposal as well as in presentations they made at various platforms. Then they got the money and organised a small consultation with us at Sambalpur where we introduced them to all the local people and farmers organisations who matter in Hirakud issue. Then started the real drama.
Even when they kept on telling that the research was being done in partnership with us they started sending research assistants to the field directly, most of the times without our knowledge. They then gave us the message that their leaders are in fact the only research experts (meaning no one at Sambalpur was capable to lead such research) and the research will be controlled by these big heads sitting at Bhubaneswar. They then carried on with that research of their own. They even took our help in housing their research assistants in villages and everywhere they visited they said to people that they are working with us, obviously because they had to use our credentials and relationships with the farmers and other people.
Finally, their reports got published. Surprisingly, the reports did not mention a single reference to our work despite of the fact that their entire work started with funding received from proposals which were written basing on our documents and materials.
Well, we had withdrawn from the research immediately after it started, as we realized their unethical and unprofessional ways of doing it. So, we should normally not worry about their product. However, a glance through the report confirms my apprehension about the cheap tricks of these unethical people. These people, as expected, have not even got the basic minimum courtesy in recognizing references which they have used in manipulative ways in the text. At one place, they have even deviated from their referencing format to see that they don't print my name despite of citing a reference to my article (jointly written with a senior journalist friend).
Even as I like to congratulate these people for bringing out a publication on Hirakud water issues (which is anyway going to serve the society), I cant but restrict myself calling them cheats and pirates.
(My purpose of sharing this story is just to share my experience in life that may help some of my friends here understand the true characters of such people. Please don't ask me the names and other details of these people because I take the liberty not to provide any such information. This is because I forgive them for being so vested in their interest. Thanks for understanding.)
Sunday, October 28, 2012
From Water Initiatives Odisha
The Chief Minister
Government of Odisha
Subject: Request to oppose the Draft National Water Policy 2012 in its current form.
Dear Chief Minister,
As you may be kindly aware the Government of India has prepared the draft National Water Policy 2012 in January 2012 and since then two revisions have taken place. The 3rd draft was approved in June 2012 at a meeting of the National Water Resources Board. The Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India has taken recourse to the position that there should be a unified national perspective on water resources utilisation and management at local, regional, state and national level in drafting this policy. After various meetings and three drafts no consensus has yet emerged on various issues and aspects of the Draft Policy among the states. In fact, there has hardly been any consultation with the people of the country on this Draft so far.
Many state Governments such as Punjab, Kerala etc, have opposed this draft policy and the Punjab cabinet has rejected this in a resolution of February-March 2012. Many civil society groups working on water have also opposed this Draft Policy on several genuine grounds. Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) has raised critical issues on this policy already. This letter is to urge upon your good office to oppose the Draft Policy in its current form in the forthcoming meeting of National Water Resources Council meeting to be held on 30th of this month. Based on media reports we believe that the Govt. of India is planning to finalize this Policy in that meeting.
The National Water Resources Council headed by the PM and with Chief Ministers of all states as members had deferred taking up the draft national water policy 2012. In fact, the new regulation and administration mechanisms that are being proposed by this Policy can be termed as infringing the State’s rights through a ‘coercive’ manner. This is related to the move to take Water from ‘States’ list to ‘Concurrent’ list. If this happens, we apprehend, the state governments will lose many of their rights in deciding and managing their water resources. It will not benefit Odisha in matters such as the Polavaram dam.
We at WIO have raised objections to the Draft Policy as its premises are built on principles of pricing, tariffs, commodification and commercialisation of water. Water is a matter of right for the people and biodiversity. By putting a price tag in a manner that will exhaust our already shrinking water resource, the policy, we are sure is meant to allow the private sector to make use of govt funds to increase their profits through contracts and concession agreements. So, we urge, the Govt. of India must first revise and withdraw the policy position that water is an economic good rather and introduce it as an ‘finite ecological resource’ and then prioritize the allocations in a way that gives the people and ecology the first rights over the resource. In no circumstances, price and investment should determine the allocation of water. We should not forget that we have not created water but we are only using it and the government is a custodian of the resource for common good. In fact the Policy is also taking positions where, we apprehend, government will be reduced to few regulatory functions only and the private parties will take control of service provision and water management. This cannot be accepted in a democratic country and hence must be opposed strongly.
Indian government is a signatory to the UN General Assembly resolution number 64/292 of 28th July 2010 “Human right to water and sanitation”, approved by 120 countries. This is now legally binding in international law. The UN affirmed by consensus that the right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, as contained in several international human rights treaties in UN Human Rights Council decision of September 28, 2011. The rights enshrined in the Constitution of India in Article - 21 “Right to Life” includes the right to food and the right to water which are also upheld by the Supreme Court in several cases and judgements. The current Draft, even though an improvement from the previous ones, has failed to recognize this in its true spirits. We urge upon you to oppose this to give justice to the people and biodiversity of the state.
The Water Regulatory Authorities proposed in the policy may turn out to be highly autocratic in nature and under the premise of ‘commodification of water’ they will surely work with a bias towards the private sector at the cost of the common people, farmers, fisherfolks and biodiversity. While we suggest for democratic ways of regulating water use with participation of the common people and people’s representatives in a bottom-up approach, any participation of industrialists and corporate houses in decision making authorities of water resources governance be opposed. They should not be any decision making role in the proposed Integrated Water Resources Management programme driven River Basin Organisations as well. They can at best be termed as ‘consumers’ allocation of water to whom can be decided only by democratic authorities based on principles of ‘water security for present and future’ with proper cumulative ecological impacts assessment done for all the water resources of the state.
Finally, we urge upon you to demand adequate public consultations on the Draft Policy before it is finalized. The Govt. of India should not be in a hurry to pass this without such consultations with the people.
There are several other issues which we have raised and for your kind attention, we are attaching (as annexure) some of our critical concerns on the Draft National Water Policy 2012 urging upon you to consider these while putting up the state government’s stand in the above said meeting.
We look forward to your judicious action in this matter ensuring a secured water future for the people and biodiversity of the state.
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
 Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.
Annexure to WIO’s letter to Chief Minister of Odisha
Water Initiatives Odisha’s
Critical Concerns and Broad Suggestions on Draft National Water Policy 2012
While the Draft Water Policy, 2012 accords basic livelihood and ecosystem needs first priority, its prescription for turning water into an ‘economic good’ after these needs are met makes it an easy tool to exploit water for profit. No lessons appear to have been learnt. Further, without a proper account of current needs, use and exploitation integrated with population increases, growing demand, and stresses arising out of climate change, it’s almost impossible to monitor such a vague and unclear ‘prioritisation’.
That the country still doesn’t have an updated database on the state of its water resources is clear from the draft policy which fails to come up with any concrete data on most issues it deals with. The existing policy expressed concern about adequate and accurate data; the proposed draft repeats this concern. All plans and policies related to water use and management are destined to fail in the absence of data, transparency and accessibility. It’s perhaps because of this inadequacy of data and assessment that the policy fails to quantify that ‘minimum’ of basic need beyond which it suggests water be treated as an ‘economic good’.
Maintaining ecological flow, a major concern across the globe, has not been accorded due seriousness in the draft policy. Like the 2002 policy, the draft proposes to set aside a portion of river flow to meet ecological needs. Considering the extent of degradation of India’s rivers and the pace of industrialisation and urbanisation, with scant control over the use and abuse of rivers by these sectors, ensuring the minimum ecological flow of rivers will be difficult. Indeed here water as a survival need and as an economic good contradict one another. The draft policy puts the onus of local-level awareness, maintenance etc on local communities but fails to recognise that most river basins are polluted and stressed by industry and urban settlement. While the later need water for survival and basic livelihoods, the former has historically been an abuser. Further, whilst basic users cannot pay for the use in ‘cash’, commercial and luxury users can use ‘cash payment’ to justify their abuse of the resource.
None of these problems have been addressed by the 2002 policy; the current draft does nothing further than advocating age-old and unviable transfer of water from open to closed basins and the formulation of regulatory authorities. The National Water Policy, 2002 also treated water as an economic good and talked about regulations and systematic planning, cost recovery, etc. However, we lost more water than we had in this one decade, water conflicts grew, and the bias towards corporations and the rich deepened.
Broad set of recommendations
What we should do, according to veteran water expert Ramaswamy Iyer, is to try and reverse our thinking. “The ecology cannot be asked to accommodate development needs. Our visions of development must spring from an understanding of ecological limits,” he asserts. Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People finds a way out in the South African Water Act: “When the South African Water Act was passed in 1997, based on the White Paper on South African Water and Sanitation Policy, 1994, the policy took a detailed look at defining water for basic human needs, its quality, quantity, access, distance etc, as well as various issues related to water and environment. It was only with this background that South Africa could take the revolutionary step of securing water for basic human needs and ecological reserves first. It went through a rigorous, extensive process of consultations with communities and other stakeholders (which still continues) to actually calculate the reserve, implement it and monitor it.”
As against the 2002 policy, the 2012 policy considers climate change a major factor. This is understandable as debates and discussions around climate change increased substantially after the formation of the National Climate Change Action Plan, which is also said to have mandated the need for a new water policy.
However, when it comes to mitigation and adaptation, the draft discounts the culprits and asks communities to take action, become sensitised and be resilient. It is now well established that rural communities -- a majority of the country’s population -- are excellent at adapting to climate change.
It is urban society, large, centralised and heavy investment development models, and industry that are the real culprits. The policy should therefore make it mandatory for these sectors also to be climate sensitive and use water more rationally. This can be done through water rationing for these segments. Putting a price on water and leaving its management in the hands of the private sector will only increase the access of richer sections to this resource. India’s National Water Policy must recognise this reality.
The National Water Policy should be based on the following guiding principles:
Water is a finite natural resource over which all human beings and other species have equal rights.
Centralised authoritarian structures of water governance and regulation should be done away with.
Water for life and livelihoods (communities/people who are directly dependent on water for their livelihood, for example, fisherfolk) should be provided free of cost as part of the state’s responsibility under the principle of ‘rights’ of these communities over the resource.
Industry and corporate houses that use water as a ‘commercial good’ for production and profit must not be considered ‘decision-making’ stakeholders and hence must never be allowed to sit on any decision-making bodies related to water management and governance.
Water allocation should be based on the carrying capacity of the ecology, considering present and future use, demand, recharging and threat perspectives, where ‘future’ should not be limited to a few decades only.
If there has to be any bias towards a section in water allocation then it should be towards the poor, farmers, fisherfolk and other sections of society whose lives and livelihood are directly related to water. And, of course, towards other life forms on earth.