India released the third draft of its National Water Policy after the first two attempts in January and May met with protests from the states. The latest draft is meant as an umbrella statement focusing on the need for “…a broad overarching national legal framework of general principles on water to lead the way for essential legislation on water governance in every state,” according to the water resources ministry.
With 17% of the world’s population, but only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources, India faces significant challenges. Recently, New Delhi citizens suffered serious water shortages when a neighboring state refused to sell water to them. The water ministry hopes to alleviate some of the tensions with the National Water Policy.
Ownership of the Water
Currently, land owners own the rights to any groundwater under their land. The National Water Policy calls for community and state ownership of all water resources. The ministry did mention the possibility of private-public partnerships.
Suboptimal pricing for both water and power encourages the waste of water through excessive pumping of aquifers. The ministry proposes mapping aquifers to determine the amount of water available and setting prices to encourage responsible use of the water. Subsidies for the poor would be established in order to provide access to water.
Industrial Water Use
For industry, the National Water Policy recommends project appraisal and environmental impact assessments for water use. Recycling and reuse should be a standard for business.
Water should be treated before being returned to the environment. The policy eases the potential burden on industries by providing incentives for building water treatment plants.
Agricultural Water Use
The ecological needs of rivers and other bodies of water should be determined in order to ensure the health of the environment and the continuing availability of water for irrigation of farms.
Irrigation policies are currently centers on engineering and construction. The ministry suggests using a multi-disciplinary approach, involving the communities. Micro-irrigation and cropping patterns based on the availability of water in the area are also possibilities.
Other suggestions for reducing India’s water footprint include rainwater harvesting, enforcing laws against illegal mining in riverbeds, and punitive measures for water polluters.