Involve communities in the distribution process
Let people do it
the current water situation in the country calls for immediate remedies. Down To Earth has hit the nail on its head by suggesting that "[the] rights of communities to control and manage their water must be safeguarded."
In fact the National Water Policy (nwp) can become an effective instrument to ensure distribution of water in an equitable and ecologically sustainable manner. For that, it must first make sure that primary needs -- drinking, cultivation and other livelihood needs, and recharging aquifers -- acquire clear precedence over all other requirements. Once this is done, a central coordinating agency (ca) should allocate water to each village in the country according to its primary needs. Of course the agro-climatic zone of a village would also determine the amount of water it receives. Thus certain pockets in the country might be allocated far less water than others. This where the ca has to step in and ensure the primary needs of all villages are adequately met. It should also provide effective guidance to water-deficient villages about appropriate agricultural practices. All this should be done in a bottom-up manner. The water allocated to each village should be left to the charge of communities.
Today, government policies provide very little space for communities to manage their water resources. The nwp should legally empower communities in this respect. Water rights, similar to usufruct rights as provided by forest policies, can be devolved to communities. Also, water conservation should be made a popular movement in which communities, panchayati raj institutions and people's representatives should play a decisive role. All this will help manage water much better than privatising it.
Krishna Gopal Vyas is with the Rajiv Gandhi Mission for Watershed Management, Madhya Pradesh
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