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Gujarat passes groundwater bill

Mar 31, 2013 | From the print edition

The legislation makes it mandatory for farmers to get licence for extracting water

IN 1973, Gujarat became the first state to introduce legislation that restricted farmers from extracting groundwater. For a water-stressed state the Groundwater Conservation Bill was godsend, said water experts. But the then chief minister, Chimanbhai Patel, refused to sign the bill fearing its impact on the state’s 0.3 million farmers.

Forty years later on February 27, the Gujarat government, led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, passed a bill which drew the ire of his opponents in the light of growing industrialisation. If implemented, the bill would require farmers to get licence to draw groundwater exceeding the prescribed depth (45 metres). As per the bill, all the 5.5 million farmers in the state have to declare their source of irrigation water.

The Irrigation and Drainage Bill of 2013 seeks to replace and repeal the existing Gujarat Irrigation Act of 1879. It proposes appointment of canal officers who would have the power to detain farmers violating the rules. It prescribes provisions to monitor irrigation schemes, water distribution, set up and maintain water-gauges. The bill makes it mandatory for a farmer to apply for a licence from the canal officer of his area if he wants to construct a tubewell or borewell or an artesian well, exceeding the depth of 45 metres. It also seeks to charge farmers for irrigation water reaching cultivated land within 200 metres of a canal either by percolation or leakage, surface flow or by means of a well-sunk from the canal.

The bill proposes penal action against “errant” farmers, including imprisonment up to six months or fine to the extent of Rs 10,000.

Source: Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board

“The bill is meant for equitable distribution of water resources,” says state water resources minister Babubhai Bokhiria. But leaders from the opposition, mainly the Congress and the Gujarat Parivartan Party, have cha


Dear All,
There should be Regional Water Authority (not merely Inspector Raj) to look into all aspects in connection with the implementation of the provisions of the Bill.

By the way, why is it for Groundwater only? The health of surface water bodies is also a matter of concern. That is why, the Regional Water Authority should be institutionalised to govern both Groundwater and Surface Water Bodies.
Thanks and Regards.
Nripendra Kumar Sarma
Guwahati, Assam, India

20 March 2013
Posted by
Nripendra Sarma

A welcome act by Gujarat Govt for equitable distribution of irrigation water.

If the experiment is successful, similar action could be extended to rest of the country.

There should be a monitoring system to watch whether the water extracted is used efficiently by use of micro irrigation equipment and other efficient agricultural practices.

Incentives be given to farmers using rain harvesting / watershed management practices.

20 March 2013
Posted by
P N Chetty

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