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Indian states adopt National Water Policy 2012

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with Water Resources Minister (L) Harish Rawat at the 6th Meeting of the National Water Resources Council in New Delhi on December 28, 2012. (Image: PIB)

New Delhi : India on December 28 adopted the National Water Policy 2012 even as several states have expressed reservations on many proposals in the Policy including creation of an overarching law on water management and setting up of a water regulatory authority.

The NWP 2012 was adopted by the National Water Resource Council during the 6th meeting of the council held in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who warned that water unavailability could affect India's economic and social growth in the future.

Addressing the media after the meeting of the Council, Union Water Resource Minister Harish Rawat said there were apprehensions expressed by some of the states about the proposed National Water Framework Law and it was apprehended that it would infringe upon the rights of the states on water.

Some States suggested that principles for allocation of river water be laid down while reservations were expressed by states on inter-basin transfer of water. Many states called for speedy resolution of interstate disputes too, he said.

However, after elongated discussions there were broader consensus on the issues of community management of water resources, climate change adaptation strategy particularly increasing water storage through revival of traditional water harvesting structures and water bodies and efficient use of water, Rawat added.

"The states have been assured that the proposed National Water Framework law and the law on River Basin Management would be drafted only after extensive consultation with them so as to ensure that the powers of the States are not curtailed in any manner. We have also proposed consideration of a National Policy Guidelines for water allocations in the next meeting of the Council", said Rawat.

Rawat said the draft NWP was the result of wide consultations held with all the stakeholders including consultations with Members of Parliament, academia, NGOs, corporate sector and Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The Minister called for an integrated approach of governance based on certain basic principles so that concerns get addressed adequately in the different parts of the country ensuring equity and social justice.

The National Water Resources Council meeting was attended by chief ministers of Assam, Punjab, Mizoram, Goa, Maharashtra, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand along with Governor of Punjab and Administrator of Union Territory of Chandigarh. Several states were represented by ministers.

However, several chief ministers opposed certain provisions in the NWP 2012.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda said the new water policy indicated a design to tamper with the basic structure of the Constitution as water comes under the State subject.

"There is no need to enact any central law on this subject nor it is in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution", he said.

Uttar Pradesh too opposed the proposal to create an over-arching law on water management. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, whose speech was read out in absentia by state PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav, said the Centre should restrict itself to deciding on the principles of such a framework and leave law making to states.

"While the UP government agrees to most of the proposals (in the draft Water Policy), the proposal to create a law on water is a sensitive issue. Water is a state subject according to the Constitution and states have a right to formulate policies keeping in mind their special needs," Yadav said.

Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal opposed the setting up of a water regulatory authority and said any revision in the Policy should be based on the existing constitutional provisions and universally accepted riparian principles.

Badal expressed reservations over establishment of a water tariff system and a water regulatory authority under the Policy, saying these should be left to the states for taking appropriate decision.

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