Assocham calls for decentralised water management

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Sep 28 | Updated: Sep 30 2008, 04:39am hrs
The impact of global climate change is being felt worldwide with changing weather conditions and erratic behaviour of monsoon rains. The incidences of drought, floods, cyclones, storm surges and natural calamities have become frequent. These call for effective management of the precious resource: water.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) in its recent study - Water: The Myths and the Mysteries - has said, "Agriculture in India, as in many other developing countries, has continued to be the single largest user of water, accounting for as much as 85% of the total annual withdrawals. It is often felt that the availability of cheap water to agriculture has tended to encourage its pre-emption for low value, high volume use and has encouraged its waste and profligate consumption" The Assocham study also pointed out the over exploitation of groundwater in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

"While past efforts at water management have tended to focus on expansion of physical availability, this alone would not be enough to meet the water challenges of the next century. Privatisation of water is aggressively exported to the developing world under the rubric of poverty reduction and debt relief strategies, free trade and economic development. By turning a scarce resource into an economic commodity, the world's economic leaders and policy planners claim that existing water resources can be managed and consumed efficiently in accordance with competitive market principles which does not holds completely true," the study said.

It further said that some of the emerging policy and institutional challenges in the field of were in terms of identifying property rights structure for water, examining alternative institutional structures for decentralisation, overcoming institutional bottlenecks in the development of groundwater and carrying out institutional reforms in drinking water utilities.

The Assocham study, in its recommendations, has suggested the role of multi-stakeholders, policy makers, private sector, NGOs and local authorities in achieving the goal for decentralised water management.