New Water Policy of India

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    In Context 

    • There is mounting global evidence in favour of nature-based solutions for water storage and supply according to the chairman of the drafting committee of the country’s new water policy.

    Why do we need a new water policy? 

    • Recent estimates suggest that if the current pattern of demand continues, about half of the national demand for water will remain unmet by 2030
    • With water tables falling and water quality deteriorating, a radical change is needed in the approach to water management.
    • Changing patterns and intensity of precipitation, as also rates of discharge of rivers, show that it can no longer be assumed that the water cycle operates within an invariant range of predictability. 
    • This requires greater emphasis on agility, resilience and flexibility in water management so that there could be an adequate response to the heightened uncertainty and unpredictability of the future.

    About Draft New National Water Policy (NWP)

    •  It has been submitted to the Ministry of Jal Shakti. 
    • Two Major Recommendations of the proposed NWP
    • Shift focus from endlessly increasing the supply of water towards measures for demand management. 
      • This means diversifying our cropping pattern to include less water-intensive crops, in line with regional agroecology.
      • It also needs to lower the industrial water footprint, which is among the highest in the world by reducing freshwater use and shifting to recycled water. 
      • Cities must mandatorily shift all non-potable uses, such as flushing, fire protection, vehicle washing, landscaping, horticulture etc to treated wastewater.
    • Shift in focus within the supply-side also because the country is running out of sites for further construction of large dams, while water tables and groundwater quality are falling in many areas
      • There are trillions of litres of water stored in big dams, which are not reaching the farmers for whom they are meant. 
      • The policy outlines how this can be done by deploying pressurized closed conveyance pipelines, combined with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and pressurized micro-irrigation.
      • There is mounting evidence across the globe in favour of “nature-based solutions” for water storage and supply. 
      • Thus, the NWP places major emphasis on the supply of water through rejuvenation of catchment areas, which needs to be incentivised through compensation for ecosystem services, especially to vulnerable communities in the upstream, mountainous regions. 
      • Renewed thrust on local rainwater harvesting to catch the rain where it falls, when it falls, must be combined with demarcation, notification, protection and revival of traditional local water bodies in both rural and urban areas. 
      • This would form part of the urban blue-green infrastructure for improved water levels and quality, as also flood mitigation, through specifically curated infrastructure.

    Conclusion

    • We need to take very serious cognisance of the current context of climate change and the grave crisis of water facing the country.
    • We propose that economic services (like industrial and commercial use) should be charged at a rate where the O&M (Operation and Management) costs and part of the capital cost would be the basis for the water service fees. 
    • At the same time, concessional rates should be provided for vulnerable social sections and care should be taken not to price out the poor from basic water service.

    Ongoing Water Projects in India

    • National Water Policy 2012 : The NWP currently in force was drafted in 2012 and is the third such policy since 1987. 
      • Among the major policy innovations in the 2012 policy was the concept of an Integrated Water Resources Management approach that took the “river basin/ sub-basin” as a unit for planning, development and management of water resources.
      • It states that the land, soil, energy and water management with scientific inputs should be used to evolve different agricultural strategies and improve soil and water productivity to manage droughts.
    • Integrated farming systems and non-agricultural developments may also be considered for livelihood support and poverty alleviation.
    • Policy intervention is also made facilitating relaxation in project clearances, funding etc. for drought-prone areas.

    Source: TH