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Draft of a National Water Framework Law Put in Public Domain by Planning Commission of India

New Delhi, January 17: Even as a revised National Water Policy is being awaited Planning Commission of India has come up with a draft National water Framework Law. The document mentions that since National Water Policy has no legal standing a law will enable various state governments to enact their own policies and laws related to water sector reforms.

The document mentions that the idea of a national water law is consistent with the the right to water being a part of the fundamental the right to life and is not something unusual or unprecedented. Many countries in the world have national water laws or codes, and some of them (for instance, the South African National Water Act of 1998) are widely regarded as very enlightened. There is also the well-known European Water Framework Directive of 2000.

This is an Act to provide a broad overarching national legal framework of general principles on water as a vital and stressed natural resource, under which legislation and executive action on water at all levels of governance, as also water-use and actions relating to water by citizens, their associations and voluntary agencies, public and private institutions and bodies corporate of all kinds, can take place, and for matters connected therewith. (Draft Law can be accessed at http://planningcommission.nic.in/index.php)

This becomes necessary also in the light of the growing urban water crisis. Writing in The Hindu Smriti Kak Ramachandran, says as India marches to find a place in the list of urbanised countries, the strain that is being put on its groundwater reserves has set the alarm bells ringing. Data collated by the Central Ground Water Board indicates that in a span of 10 years, from 2002 to 2011, there has been more than four meter decline in the ground water levels in the metro cities of Faridabad, Delhi, Rajkot, Greater Mumbai, Jaipur and Ludhiana alone. There are over 80 notified areas across the country, including South, South West districts and Yamuna floodplains in Delhi, Municipal Corporation of Faridabad, Indore, Ludhiana and entire Jaipur urban area. The Board has attributed the fall to the “over-exploitation” of ground water to meet “increasing demand for water and reduced natural recharge” on account of “urbanisation”. About 11 per cent of Delhi’s water needs are met from water supplied by groundwater reserves, but the percentage could be much higher, point out experts, because of a large number of illegal tube wells being used by individuals as well as industries. Experts point out such extraction of ground water reserves can lead to a crisis in the coming years. (full report can be read at http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article2801520.ece)

Inter state conflicts like, Mullaperiyar Dam Controversy, over river water sharing and the water privatisation is a cause of concern for civil society and the Framework law in such a situation will tame the crisis in urban centres but also enable States to frame laws that make roof top rain water harvesting mandatory in government buildings, cooperative housing societies, hotels, schools, and industrial establishments.