National Water Policy A futile exercise
After a gap of 15 years, the union government has released a revised version of the National Water Policy (NWP). Speaking on the ocassion, prime minister (PM), Atal Behari Vajpayee laid special stress on the need to promote community-based rainwater harvesting practices in the country. However the policy fails to reflect his views.
The document is a repeat of the 1987 water policy with words like community and participatory approach merely added to it. L C Jain, former member of planning commission, says, "The PMs argument that a revision of 1987 policy was long overdue is misplaced. What is truly overdue is the removal of those entrusted with its implementation". Anupam Mishra of Gandhi Peace Foundation, dismisses the document as a short-term policy guide. The document could not be released last year, as the government was keen to address the requirements of the state governments.
The new policy merely highlights issues that need immediate attention but fails to give a strategy for there effective implementation. N C Saxena, former secretary of the planning commission (PC), finds it completely inadequate. He says, "It does not indicate a roadmap to achieve the goals".
The revised policy emphasises on strengthening the existing state institutions, but says little about empowering the local communities. Rajendra Singh, secretary of Tarun Bharat Sangh, an Alwar-based non-governmental organisation, expresses deep concern. "Communities and small organisations will suffer as their role has not been clearly defined", laments Singh.
Community participation has been limited to mere consultation, says expert. Local people have no role to play in the implementation process, as per the new policy. The adverse effects of this shortsightedness will lead to serious problems, fears Saxena."A part of the funds are directly released by the central government to these communities. As their roles remain unspecified, it could lead to gross misappropriation of funds.", he says.
"Also, the policy warns us about the emerging groundwater crisis, but fails to lay down a clear guideline to check over-extraction", says Saxena.
The 1987 policy and the PCs annual plan promised drinking water for all by 2005. However, it remains as an elusive dream even today. Jain rightly says, "All that the government has done during this period is to push the deadline back again and again".
Copyright © CSE Centre for Science and Environment