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Effective water governance needed to tackle growing water woes: Experts

Participants at the consultation meeting in New Delhi.

New Delhi : Delhi and its constant water woes have been in the news recently. If the situation in the national Capital is so bad, how would other cities, with far less resources, be coping up?

The growing water shortage in Delhi has again raised the issue of water governance across the country.

It is now well acknowledged that dwindling water resources are becoming constraining factors to both development and poverty alleviation. Scarcity of water remains a threat to sustainability of both economic activity as well as the ecology.

But, the concept of water resources governance itself has gone a structural change. Experts point out that now the difficulty in water governance is that every agency (and, stakeholder) thinks that water belongs to them. However, no one wants to protect it.

So, there is a clear need to redefine water governance. Also, there is a critical need to look at alternative institutional and policy arrangements to make water governance both meaningful and viable.

Experts at a recent consultation meeting on “Issues of governance in the water sector” felt that stakeholders’ responsibility and authority, financial viability, innovation and research & development, capacity building and inter-coordination among the various departments are the key parameters for effective water governance.

Investing in governance reform is more cost-effective compared to the cost of investment in technological solutions, it was felt.

The multi-stakeholders' consultation was organized by India Water Partnership (Global Water Partnership - India) in association with Transparency International India (TII) on June 18 at New Delhi.

The consultation was attended by participants from the Government, non-government organizations (NGOs), Delhi's Deputy Mayor, representatives of several residential welfare associations (RWAs), India Water Partnership network partners and officials from Transparency International, India officials.

Former Central Water Commission (CWC) Chairman Anil D Mohile, who chaired the consultation, said that water resources governance and management scenario in India is undergoing structural changes.

In the case of surface water, allocation equals or exceeds available water. So, while one industry uses water, it gives back the water after re-cycling. Hence, the total use remains the same. But, in the case of groundwater, extraction exceeds recharge, said Mohile, adding that this hampers the allocation of water over different sectors and makes the situation more complex.

The experts stressed on the fact that efficient governance required strong leadership policies and regulations to allocate necessary financial resources and provide incentives for increased investment and transparency.

India Water Partnership's Dr Veena Khanduri was of the view that today water governance was no more in the domain of water managers alone because of multi-level (local, regional, sub-national) and multi-dimensional (economic, social and environmental) factors.

"It is now important to focus on how we as a society can manage our water resources as part of effective water governance as there are multiple authorities and coordinating agencies working at the same time on the issues", she said.

Capacity building of water utilities and a change in mindset of Government officials were also important factors in water governance, added Global Water Partnership's regional council member Dr Prem S Vashishtha.

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