the Gujarat government is planning to set up a water regulatory commission to monitor and regulate water supply and sewerage services, rationalise tariffs, curb subsidies and promote water conservation, as envisioned in the Gujarat Water Regulatory Commission Bill (gwrcb), 2006. The bill is expected to bring clarity to the roles of various government bodies involved in water distribution, give a boost to private sector investment, improve productivity and efficiency of the sector, and also address the tariff issue.
At present, the bill is being vetted by the Gandhinagar-based Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (gidb), an overseeing body for infrastructure development, before it is sent to the state cabinet. If passed, Gujarat will become the second Indian state to have a water regulatory commission.Supported by the World Bank, Maharashtra was the first to enact such a law -- Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005. Unlike in Maharashtra, gwrcb will also cover wastewater issues within the state.
But water management experts are already warning Gujarat against following Maharashtra's act which they say is anti-farmer and will aggravate the water crisis in the state. In some cases the cost of water in Maharashtra is expected to rise so high (going up to Rs 8,000 per acre) that farmers will not be able to sustain such levels of payment. In many areas, water user associations are yet to be formed, whereas in some they have already become defunct (see 'The End?', Down To Earth, May 31, 2003).
gwrcb has its genesis in the 2001 report of New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (teri) -- Regulatory framework for water services in the state of Gujarat. gidb had commissioned teri to identify and suggest changes in existing legislation to facilitate private investment; develop an enabling regulatory framework to facilitate private sector involvement; suggest measures to promote competition; develop a policy for tariff-regulation; and develop a framework to protect consumer interests