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Petitioning Ministry of Water Resources, India
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Ministry of Water Resources, India

Make the New Water Policy Democratic, Pro People, Pro Environment

Draft National Water Policy 2012 is out for comments till the 29th February 2012. The policy is supposed to guide future legal, institutional and on-ground developments in the water sector for a long time to come. Instead of envisioning a strongly sustainable and equitable road map for water resource development, the Policy neglects crucial aspects and goes on to aid privatisation by making statements like "“Service Provider” role of the state has to be gradually reduced and shifted to regulation and control of services. The water related services should be transferred to community and / OR private sector." such a blanket go-ahead for Water Privatisation is anti poor, anti environment and anti farmer. We have no credible mechanisms to ensure transparent, accountable water resources management, nor do we have laws to ensure legally enforceable right to water and democratic norms. In the absence of these, water privatisation will worsen the scenario for everyone, not only the poor. Important aspects like giving priority to groundwater management, which is the country's water lifeline, realistic ways to ensure ecological sustainability and empower communities to be on the center stage, issues related to irrigation and hydropower efficiency, reviving and safeguarding traditional water management structures, etc., have received nearly no attention. Policy is open for comments only till 29th February. Sign the petition and urge the Ministry of Water Resources to adopt a democratic, pro people and pro environment Water Policy for the future! Rivers and farmers around you who cannot send in online petitions, but who will be deeply impacted by such a Policy need your voice!

Letter to
Ministry of Water Resources, India
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Ministry of Water Resources, India.

Make the New Water Policy Democratic, Pro People, Pro Environment

Shri. Pawan Kumar Bansal
Ministry of Water Resources,
Government of India

Dear Shri. Bansal,

We would like to raise some pertinent points about the Draft national Water Policy which is out for comments till the 29th February 2012 and we hope that the Ministry will take due note of the points mentioned to make the new Water Policy Inclusive, Pro people and Pro Environment.
1. Give Central place to Grouundwater in the Water Policy discourse: The preamble does not even mention groundwater though groundwater is India’s water lifeline. Each sector of user is majorly dependent on groundwater and with each passing day such dependence is increasing for each sector and is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. A major challenge of the NWP is to ensure sustenance of the groundwater lifeline of India. The NWP needs to emphasis the need to protect existing groundwater recharge mechanisms, to create more such mechanisms, ensure demand-side management, including avoiding non-essential water intensive activities in deficit areas and most importantly, work towards decentralized, bottom up groundwater regulatory mechanisms
2. Water for basic livelihood needs and ecosystem needs. First priority to these can be considered as a welcome step only if all the specificities about water allocation for livelihoods and ecosystem needs are worked out, discussed and accepted along with the necessary legal and institutional back up. We request the Ministry to work on these details first, so that points such as these do not remain mere points on paper.
3. ‘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’, this statement needs to be strongly qualified in the context of exhausting all local options, demand side management measures and ensuring maximum reuse and recycle.
4. Regulating water intensive activities in deficit regions: water using activities needs to be regulated keeping in mind the local geo-climatic, hydrological situations and non-essential water intensive activities cannot be allowed in water deficit areas. Without such regulation, all other principles will go for a toss.
5. Post facto Evaluation of large dams: There is no mention of the Major and Medium irrigation projects, the biggest single technology fix on which the Government spends most of its money and over 95 per cent of India’s large dams are built for this. And these projects are not delivering. Since 1991-92 when India’s net irrigated area, served by M&M projects, reached a peak of 17.79 m ha, there has been no addition to NIA, even though India spent over Rs 1,80,000 crore during the period. This reality needs to be acknowledged in the NWP. But there is no attempt at institutionalizing post-facto evaluations or learning from the experiences of the past.
6. Making the huge existing water infrastructure responsive to Climate change: No attention has been paid to this point
7. Increasing soil moisture content The policy does not say a word about increasing the, which actually should be the first objective of all irrigation strategies. It supports and even encourages inter basin water transfers from so called ‘open basins’ to ‘closed basins’. We oppose these non sustainable, non equitable transfers.
8. Holding up the Subsidiarity Principle: The section on project planning and implementation begins, as expected directly with large multipurpose infrastructure projects, without even mentioning the appropriateness of subsidiarity principle. Emphasis should have been laid on units like the gram sabha or the gram panchayat, watershed and how this will be federated upwards.
9. The section on Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) needs to list out basic principles of avoiding and minimizing displacement and ensuring that only a project that has come through bottom-up planning process shall be considered. The first principle of R&R should be that all affected families will be rehabilitated to ensure that they promptly achieve living standards that are equal or higher than their living standard before the projects began.
10. What is the imperative for pushing Water Regulatory Authorities? : The section on Institutional Arrangements begins with the statement that Water Resources Regulatory Authorities (WRRA) are a must in each state. WRRA was first established in Maharashtra in 2005 through the MWRRA Act. The centralised, top down bureaucratic authority with no space for community representatives has been ineffective in achieving any worthwhile objective or making water resources management pro poor or pro environment or stopping inter sector water allocation. The act has now been amended by an ordinance which gives rights of water allocation to the cabinet, which chose to change water allocation from farmers on verge of suicides in Vidarbha to thermal power plants. This does not deserve a special mention or push through the National Water Policy.
11. A most shocking statement in the Policy is the assertion that “The “Service Provider” role of the state has to be gradually reduced and shifted to regulation and control of services. The water related services should be transferred to community and / OR private sector ...” “Public Private Partnership” model under the general superintendence of the State or the stakeholders. This is a blanket go ahead for water privatisation, which has been proved to be anti people, anti poor, pro private water utilities and hence unacceptable. Privatisation has not succeeded anywhere and is not likely to succeed in any case in India, and will only work towards worsening the water services scene, particularly for the poor, but actually for everyone. Particularly when we have no credible mechanisms to ensure transparent, accountable water resources management, nor do we have laws to ensure legally enforceable right to water and democratic norms. We request you to urgently delete and rework this section in a more inclusive way.
12. Lastly, the consultation process has not been open and inclusive, but based on pre decided invitations. 4 consultation meetings for Panchayat Raj institutions cannot be supposed to be representative for the country. Now that the Policy is on the website, hardly 29 days have been provided for comments. We urge the Ministry and related offices to make this into a truly democratic process by initiating open consultations from Gram Sabhas, facilitated by government organisations and NGOs and upscale it to basin and then National level. We request the administration not to hurry through the most important part of public consultation as it is the people’s policy in the end.