Dr. M. S. Rathore,
Director, CEDSJ
(Centre for Environment and Develoemnt Studies, Jaipur) 
Contact : [email protected]

Chapter III: Basic Principles, Section 4: Water as Common Heritage and Resource held in Public Trust.

The proposed principle that water in general and groundwater in particular when considered as

common pool resource, not amenable to ownership by the state, communities or persons is a

big fundamental shift in the government policy and water governance laws. Presently, surface

and groundwater ownership is largely governed by Easement Act provides private ownership on

groundwater to all land owners. The proposed Bill will take away this privilege enjoyed for

generations by landowners. Though this change is very much needed for future water security

in the country, still this may become major political agenda for most of the farmer organizations

and also for opposition parties. In the larger interest of the people in this country this change is

must but this change will be possible only if people are made aware of the facts about the status

of surface and groundwater resources and emerging negative consequences in different parts

of country and the long term implications of present use pattern of the resources, if continued. If

that is not explained properly and farmers are not taken in confidence then it may lead to rural

farmers’ revolution against the ruling government.

The Bill in the present form will require mass awareness building efforts/programs for different

stakeholders at different level in a mass campaign mode for at least two years, initiated through

PRIs and NGOs across the country. People in the rural areas are of the view that if the national

and state governments presently are facing serious problem in management of surface water

which is owned and managed by state why they want to touch groundwater having a complex

set of socio political issues.

The alternative is to try enacting this Bill in one or two dry states on experimental basis with

number of small pilot projects on community management of water resources in river sub basins

and participatory aquifer management of groundwater resources, to build opinion in favour of

the major policy change.

Chapter III, Section (2): State is obliged to protect water as a trustee…

Elaborate the word ‘protect’ that is protect here means; protection by way of conservation,

development, management, recycle & reuse, harnessing, from pollution, etc.

Chapter III, Section (8): Water use and Land use.

The meaning of the following two terms used in this section has to be precisely defined as

people and decision makers may have different perception/meaning. The terms are; (1)

Sustainable Agricultural System, and (2) Equity in water use.

Who will decide or guide people and decision makers as what is sustainable and equity and

how that will be executed at ground level? These terms be included in the Chapter I for


Chapter III, Section (9), Appropriate Treatment and use of Waste Water.

There is no mention whether this is for rural area or urban area. Also no reference to industrial

use, therefore, make it explicit as what is expected in these three cases, i.e., rural, urban and industry.

Chapter III, Section 11: Water use participation.

Why industrial use of water is not mentioned in this section ?

Chapter IV; IRBDM; Section 12 (2):

The para in this section reads ‘to ensure …destruction of catchment areas and river flood-plains

do not negatively impact river flows…’

What about the existing status of rivers affected by government planning and locating industrial

areas in river beds and urban development plans creating major destruction of rivers and rivers

flows? How to address this in the Bill?

Chapter IV; IRBDM; Section 12 (6):

The last para is already covered in item 2, shift this to item 2.

Chapter IV; IRBDM; Section 12 (8): Equitable and optimal utilization …

These two terms (Equitable and Optimal Utilization) have different meaning in sector wise water

distribution and use, so define them clearly by giving examples in the definition chapter/section.

This is to avoid multiple interpretation and implication there off.

General comments on chapter IV

Presently the unit/geographical boundary of physical and financial planning of water resource

development and management is political/administrative boundary and there is a well defined

governance structure in place. If IRBDM approach is adopted planning unit will be watershed at

lower level and river basin boundary at macro level, i.e. natural boundaries and that will be by

establishing River Basin Authority. This will demand either restructuring of existing

administrative structure or creation of new structure of governance as more than one District

Collectors have to sit together and plan and execute water sector activities. The Bill do not

provide that institutional road map required to adopt IRBDM approach to water resources


Chapter V: Planning for Water Security

There seems to be major issue to define appropriate governance framework and supporting

institutional structure. The earlier Chapter IV advocates IRBDM approach to water resources

development and management while the Chapter V, which deals with Planning for Water

Security pleads for a new set of governance model and a different set of institutional

arrangement. The basic principle behind water security planning is decentralized participatory

approach involving PRIs and related institutional structure and planning right from Gram

Panchayat level to State level. Therefore, there is basic contradiction in the selection of unit of

planning, i.e. natural boundary versus administrative boundary and unless we resolve this issue

the selection of appropriate institutional structure remains unanswered. There is need for

rethinking and building consensus on basic principle.

The important function identified for the proposed Appropriate Government is to get water

security plans prepared. The water security plans can be for drinking water or irrigation water or

for all other types of usage of water. There is mention of first two set of water usages and their

plan but the third set is missing particularly industrial use and urban water usage. Ensuring

these three types of water security will require three different types of strategies and functions

for the suggested Appropriate Government at different level. Also at some place there will be

need for coordinated decision making and I don’t find any institutional mechanism or proposed

platform for interaction/joint decision making. If they work independently with the given powers

conflicts are bound to come.

If the water security plans at lowest level are made by Panchayat Water Committee or

Panchayat Samiti then they neither have the capacity nor the vision to prepare water security

plans. Also there are no funds, administrative and technical support to get the things done. They

can never get vacate the encroachments on water bodies or catchment areas, etc. because of

the village social and political dynamics despite the provisions in the Model Bill for the

Conservation, protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016. Regulation of

groundwater is also impossible. There will be lot of conflicts if the committees try to act as per

The competition in water use and politics of water will influence the content of security plans at

all level. Also the committee members may not be paid workers and this preparation of plan

may require lot of time input of members.

Is there a provision of institution, funds to hire a team of experts to conduct research or

generate information required to prepare water security plans at different level and integrate

them at state level?

Chapter VI: Sectoral Use of Water

Urban Water Management is covered in Chapter VI but no reference is made of water security

plans covered in earlier chapter. It seems Urban water will be managed independently but under

which regime, i.e. IRBDM or Water Security Planning approach, and governance approach will

be different in both the case.

Similarly in case of Section 24 on Participatory Irrigation Management no cognizance of earlier

Chapters and related water management approaches is taken and independent approach is

suggested which will be conflicting and contradictory to the earlier approaches.

Section 25: Industrial Water Use, Item (3) It is suggested that conditionally industries be allowed

to draw groundwater, I think there should be condition of using in few states only whwre there is

surplus groundwater. More than 50% of the Indian States fall under Arid and Semi Arid

conditions and there is no scope of industry be allowed to draw groundwater.

Chapter VIII: Water Conflicts, Section 30

This section needs fresh thinking by reviewing the past water conflicts, categorize them by type

and nature, what level, i.e. local, state, interstate, etc. and analyze and make broad provision for

resolving them by suggesting appropriate governance structure in the light of Chapter III and IV

of this Bill.