People sceptical of Arunachal Pradesh Water Resources Management Authority Bill

Published: Friday 15 December 2006

the Arunachal Pradesh Water Resources Management Authority Bill, 2006 has been passed by the sixty-member Arunachal Pradesh legislative assembly in its October session. However, it has constituted a committee headed by the secretary, water resources department to look into the discrepancies in the bill.

The act, brought out in haste to prevent an overarching water authority hoisted by the Centre may have adverse consequences for the Arunachal people, civil society members say. The act, they point out, is a complete facsimile of the Maharashtra Water Resources Management Authority Act, 2005. They claim it has incorporated irrelevant sections of the Maharashtra Act, including clauses about clearing pending schemes for irrigation and drought protection already sitting with the state government which are case specific to Maharashtra, a state in the Deccan plains and not applicable to the mountainous rain-rich Arunachal.

The government believes that the act will regulate the state's water resources and encourage development. "Arunachal with its abundant water resources could boost its economy by harnessing all the resources, which would mitigate the perennial flood and erosion problems faced by the neighbouring state of Assam," says minister in charge, Tako Dabi.

Not too many share the enthusiasm of the government. Civil society members like Bamang Anthony of Arunachal Citizen's Rights, an Itanagar-based environmental group says that the bill is shoddy and questions the intentions of the government. They argue that the provisions completely undermine the traditional practice of community ownership of natural resources. The act, in chapter IV, states that once the authority formed under the act notifies it so, no person shall use any water sources without obtaining the entitlement from the respective river basin agency.

The act comes at a time when the Union government has been publicly mulling the creation of a pan-northeast India water authority taking over control of development of the rich Brahmaputra and Barak basins. Arunachal Pradesh has steadfastly opposed such a move, claiming it would take away the state's role in developing its resources. In the past, the two governments have had differences with the Union government pushing the state to bank upon the public sector to build power projects while they preferred to negotiate more favourable contracts with private groups like Reliance Infrastructure Ltd.

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