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The growing concern with environmental issues and their impact on general public awareness, is one of the most noticeable phenomena of the last twenty years or so. From the question of holes in the ozone layer to conservation of forests and bio diversity, environmental issues are being raised at various levels.(2)
Water is a unique substance. It is one of the few materials on the Earth that exists naturally as a solid, liquid or gas. It is not possible for life on earth to exist without water. Scientists estimate that there are over one billion cubic kilometers of water on this earth, which covers nearly three fourth of the earth's surface. Though this seems an inordinately huge amount, in actual fact, less than one percent is fresh and usable and is found in lakes, ponds, rivers and groundwater. Of the remaining, ninety seven percent is found in oceans and two percent is locked up in glaciers and ice-caps.(3) From a global viewpoint fresh water is abundant and the volume of fresh water renewed by the hydrological cycle between the oceans, the atmosphere, the sun and the land is more than enough to meet the needs of five to ten times existing world population.(4)
Water quality monitoring is not yet developed in some countries, in other it is in decline. The quality of water available for drinking is posing a serious threat to the
existence of life. Degradation of water quality is a consequence of human activities, land use practices and economic development. Land use practices affect the quality of water in our streams, lakes, ground water and ultimately the marine environment. Experience has shown that it is within our ability to slow and reverse water quality degradation, to improve human health and ecosystem integrity by nations putting forward a concerted effort. To accomplish this, aggressive, positive and timely policies and actions are needed. The world has a moral obligation to ensure that future generations inherit a world with clean water and healthy environment.
The apparent abundance of water is deceptive and is often taken for granted.(5) There is a tendency to abuse and overuse it. This has led to water scarcity, for which the reasons are as follows,
1. Increasing demand for water due to rapid increase in population.
2. Bad management: India receive the second highest amount of rainfall in the world, next to Brazil, almost 1150 mm, annually, draining a total volume of 400 million hectare meters. Of this, only 100 million hectare meters is retained in the soil. The rest is carried as run off into the oceans and seas.
3. Poor ground water resources due to deforestation and overgrazing which result in soil erosion and the inability of the soil to permit water infiltration.
4. Poor storage facilities
5. Over-exploitation of ground water in water scarce areas often resulting in the intrusion of saline water in coastal areas.(6)
6. Dumping of various types of pollutants into water bodies, reducing the usability of the available water.
7. Cultivation of hybrid varieties of paddy, wheat, cotton, sugarcane and tobacco which consume more water.
8. Evaporational loss of water stored in large reservoirs and loss by seepage in long canal system.
9. Siltation of bodies of water due to denudation of the vegetational cover in the hills and catchment areas.
It is time that effective regulatory mechanism is established by which protection of our water resources can take place. There is also a need for looking at the water laws in the other jurisdictions and rules and regulations mandating protection.
Water as a vital Resource
In India more than 10 mha out of 40 mha irrigated land has been affected by salinity and alkalinity. Water logged areas, counted as 'water-eroded lands are estimated to be about 74 mha out of India's total agricultural area of 143 mha. According to one government figure, most of 219 irrigated projects suffer from lack of drainage of land, and are thus contributing to soil and water degradation.(7)
Not just does the issue of scarcity of water need to be addressed, but also the conservation of water also needs to take place. Without these it is impossible for the survival of the ecosystem to take place and nature would be placed at an imbalance. The sustainability of global food production increasingly depends on efficient water use(8). In order to protect and maintain water sources necessary for agricultural,
fisheries and agro forestry matters, water saving technology and management must be applied to all these types of activities.
One way by which preservation of water can take place is through the system of water resources management. At present in India there is no central legislation by which water resource management can take place, but most of the states have legislation for their metropolitan by which water resource management can take place in those areas.(9)
Water Resource Management in India:
Water Resources management is a very important issue with regard to the conservation and the protection of water. Water demand management is meant to manage the available water resources wisely and to deliver the necessary amount for sustainable development. In these include environmental conservation with inter and intra generation equity in mind while any policy of conservation is formulated.
In pre-British India water management was essentially a local matter and was in the hands of the community. This changed with the advent of the British period and of modernity. Control over water resources passed from the hands of the community into those of the state. While ownership of natural resources was claimed by the state, management passed into the hands of engineers and bureaucrats. The induction to western engineering ushered in the era of large dams and there was a concomitant decline of traditional forms of small scale, local, community-managed systems of water harvesting and management. These new projects became symbols of development.
Government initiatives for water resource management are outlined in National Water Policy, 1987, National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on
Environment and Development, 1992, and Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution, 1992. The strategy and policy statement prescribe command and control, technological zoning, fiscal incentives and use of economic instruments as
mechanisms for water pollution control. The present approach to control water pollution in India is to use regularity instruments along with systems for monitoring the prescribed standards to achieve the government's policy goals. This standards for ambient and point source discharges are set by various acts of the government. Compliance is mandatory and provisions for penalties are made in the acts. These are monitored by the central and state pollution control boards. A legal framework and occasionally fiscal incentive schemes for implementation and compliance of the standards support the regulatory approach.
The Constitution of India provides for the right to life, which is a fundamental right under Art. 21 and has ben interpreted by the courts to also include the right to pure air and water.(10)
Citizens may also fight against polluted water under s. 277 of the IPC which deals with fouling water or water bodies.(11) The causing any Public nuisance(12), and the power of the Executive magistrate under sec. 133 of Cr. P. C(15) is one which would bring seedy relief from any fouling of the water. The more recent legislation on water pollution is the Water [Prevention and Control of Pollution] Act, 1974. This Act is meant to curb the various kinds of pollution ranging from domestic to industrial pollution. Violations under this Act are more severe.(16) Another legislation dealing with the aspect of purity of water is parts X-B and XI-A of the Merchant Shipping Act, inserted by the Amending Act of 1983 dealing with every aspect of marine pollution. There are several judicial decision which have affected the issues of water rights.
Several legal and policy issues have affected water resources management especially in some of the drought prone areas.
Dispute in relation to water: The legislative response
Since time immemorial man has maintained a close relationship with water through the river. Rivers have cradled throughout history. Man draws water from the rivers to support his productive activities, including the production of food. Yet, the development of civilization has a devastating effect on the river basin and threatens civilization itself through floods and soil erosion caused by the river.(17)
The result of the diverse human activities taking place in the river basin are reflected in the river. Take the example of deforestation. The felling of trees enhances the damage caused by floods and droughts. Water pollutants discharged at one point will flow downstream the river and adversely affect water use down the river. To resolve the problems of irrigation and salination dams are built in the lower reaches, and they impede the upstream movement of fishes. Problems of this nature lead to regional conflicts ion which the upstream parts may be at odds with the downstream parts or the left with the right river bank. Such conflicts may escalate to international friction.(18)
Art. 262 of the Constitution of India deals and empowers parliament to deal with the issue of adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter state rivers or river valleys. Clause (2) of the article empowers parliament to enact provision barring jurisdiction of the Supreme Court or other courts n respect of such disputes.
There is existence of Water Disputes Act that deals with the setting up of a tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute. The tribunal shall consist of only one person nominated by the Chief Justice of India from persons who are or have been judges of
the Supreme Court or the High Court Of India. The decision given by the tribunal will be published in the official gazette and the decision shall be final and binding upon the parties to the dispute and shall be given effect to by them. No dispute may be referred to the tribunal however, in respect of matter that may arise regarding anything that may be referred to for arbitration under The River Boards Act, 1955. Neither the Supreme Court nor any other Court shall have or exercise jurisdiction in respect of any dispute which may be referred to a tribunal under this Act.(19)
The Water Dispute Act, 1956 has been enacted by parliament in exercise of the power conferred by Art. 262. The Subject matter of the act is not covered by any of the entries in the legislative Lists. Moreover the power conferred by this article overrides the legislative entries.(20) Another provision of the Constitution that needs to be looked at is Art. 288 of the Constitution. Clause (1) of this article validates all state level laws in force immediately before the coming into force of the constitution, which imposed tax with respect to water and electricity. The Constitution ensures liberational potential of law for these movements. Art. 19 speaks about the right to a profession and it is often quoted to defend effort to industrialize or modernize. What is forgotten here is that this is frequently done at the expense of a much more important fundamental 'right to life', dealt in Art. 21.
Life means 'lifestyles' and to remove people from their habitat in which they have lived for centuries requires a very strong justification. It cannot be compensated by any amount of cash compensation. The power of the State is not by itself such a justification, except in societies not aspiring to justice and rule of law values. This interpretation of legal sociologist seems to be more responsible and just in a welfare State. The Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India transformed the right to life into a positive right thereby imposing an affirmative duty on the state. The
post Maneka ear has witnessed an unprecedented judicial activism in the country by converting Art. 21 into a sanctuary of human values. In Francis Caolie Mullien v Delhi Administration, Justice Bhagwati observed: 'the right to life enshrined in Art. 21 cannot be restricted to mere animal existence. It means something more than just physical survival. The Right to life includes the right to live human dignity and all that goes along with it, viz., the basic necessities of life such as education, nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head'.
It is not inappropriate to read to clean, drinking water into his right, for it will be impossible to live with human dignity without clean and healthy water.
No doubt Art. 39(b)and (c) of our constitution directs the states to distribute 'common goods' in a manner which best serves the community but Art.21 guarantees life and livelihood of the people and Art. 19 (e) secures the right to reside. Whenever an irrigation work, particularly large-scale work, is constructed, all these rights are directly infringed. Does the reutilization of water resources serve the 'common good'? The constitution guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to all through Art. 14, no class of citizens is to be favored. By and large, the original local people are displaced in the name of 'common good' and the benefits of the resources are distributed to quite some other people. Hence the first major issue which arises is one of distributive justice. Do the people running the industries or living in urban areas have a greater claim to benefit from new utilization of the water resources for their life and livelihood?
One Important provision added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment(21) is Art. 51A. The Article which finds a place in Part IV A entitled 'fundamental duties' states: It shall be duty of every citizen of India- to protect and improve the natural environment including forest, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.
An important anomaly in the existing constitutional scheme is that the citizens of the country have no constitutional remedy when the state fails to discharge the constitutionally ordained injunctions and also when it wilfully damages the natural environment, which it is constitutionally obliged to protect.
When the interests of the state may come into conflict with those of the citizens, as the cases of antidam movements show, the citizens should have been guaranteed a constitutionally enforceable right to a decent environment. But the courts are reluctant to do so as is evident from some of the decisions of the Courts.
The Arguments for the construction of an irrigation work in terms of 'national good' broadened the referential scope of the meaning of the term /common good' in Art. 39(b) of the Constitution, that is, the 'common' now includes not only the local inhabitant near the river where irrigation work is to be constructed, but a much larger community. This argument is tenable and sensible. No one in his right mind will deny that a large community must have access to the utilisation of the common water resource. It is to be noted however, that this argument allows only the possibility of benefit sharing from a smaller to large community. It does not, in any way, allow the substitution or the elimination of the smaller community. No principle of distributive justice can allow this. What in fact happens in the construction of large-scale projects is that the local inhabitants are totally displaced and
dispossessed of the original resources available to them. The benefits arising out of
the new use of the water resource is either of a type to which they cannot have access, because the do not have the buying power, or the benefits are distributed in a manner which does not reach them. It would be agreed that this is nothing but gross violation of all principles of distributive justice laid down in the Constitution.
Agenda 21 of the Rio declaration insists at developing irrigation schemes which have not only the potential to supply great increases in food production, but also the potential for the destruction of wetlands(23), water pollution, increased sedimentation, salinisation of soils and loss of biodiversity.
The extent to which water resources development contributes to economic productivity is not usually appreciated, although all social and economic activities rely heavily on adequacy and quality of freshwater. In India, as populations and economic activities grow, many regions are rapidly reaching conditions of water scarcity, quality degradation or facing limits on economic development. It is in this light that the recommendation of Agenda 21 will have to be implemented.(24)
Rights in relation to Water
Right over any resource is not necessary when it is abundant and freely available. It applies to water also. However, certain control mechanisms were found necessary due to certain extreme conditions experienced by people. On the one hand, there were floods and the problem of heavy water logging and drainage; community participation was found necessary to save the human society from such natural disasters. On the other hand, there were droughts and water scarcity and so was the need for certain rules and regulations to use the available water more effectively, equitably and efficiently. Thus, in the process of development of a society, water has emerged as one of the most important natural resources to deal with for a better
human living. Indeed, in the recent times, the increasing gap between demand and supply has resulted in several managerial problems such as allocation, maintenance, prioritizing use of water and need to resolve conflicts that may crop up in the process of sharing.
Conferring water right is an important measure or an institutionalized principle, which regulated water use and conflicts. All laws relating to water and other natural resources became necessary because of progress attained by human societies, which in turn brought demand for resources, scarcity conditions and problems of free riders; precisely because of these reasons, there was a need for informal rules and regulations; these have evolved over a long period time. These informal rules and regulations, which evolved over a long period time, reflected the socio-economic and political structure of society at any given point of time; These rules were not static but were subject to quite a good deal of changes; These changes were influenced by factors such as geo-physical and climatic conditions, socio-economic and political conditions and level of technological development.
Therefore, water rights are basically certain kind of institutional arrangements, which have evolved / emerged over a long period of time in the history of human settlement, in order to enable a society or a user-community to act, interact and to manage a system. This is not to glorify the irrigation institutions that existed in the past. Indeed, the kind of irrigation institutions that were controlled by kings or local chieftains was nothing but hydraulic despotism and reflected very much the local power structure and production relations at any given point of time. Nevertheless, there existed some organized and codified rules and regulations, customs, roles and mores, legislations, notifications etc., which not only defined access over water for a community, but also subsumed all critical functions of water management. And, given the local power structure unequal access to means of production, these
institutions performed well in protecting the water rights of `user communities ?. In the Indian context, the emergence of colonialism and formation of welfare state have not only altered the power relations but also have contributed to disintegration of these rights over natural resources, in particular water. At the same time, it is not to deny the wisdom that State has a key role in facilitating water use and in protecting the rights of user-communities. Further, in the context of present water rights debate, it is necessary to distinguish between rights acquired / gathered over time (riparian rights), and rights gained due to access to resources. Urban industrialists controlling water resources in the rural areas by sinking deep tube wells (much deeper than the existing ones in a village) is a classic case in support of rights gained due to control over resources.(25)
Practice of traditional /customary water rights in India
The technology of water use for agriculture has developed over a period of many centuries and its history has run parallel with the patterns of human settlement and formation of village societies.(26)
The water rights, therefore, are not something, which were given to water users but were gained or acquired by them over a very long period of time. These are called customary rights, which were recognized by Hindu laws and latter by English laws. Though customary laws varied from state to state, they had some common ground such as community rights and informal arrangement. These customary laws had many advantages compared to statutory rights. "Customary law has been dynamic more in tune with the needs of the people than dogmatic about certain fixed notions of territorially or ownership right.... Limitless to space and quality, they are broader in approach than the legal systems ?(27)
In India, the Easement Act 1832 specifically recognized customary rights of people. Thus, as per the custom and convention, people were entitled to tap water, which (due to gravity) flows through an upper plot or another person's land(28)
. However, this Act was not applicable to ground water.
To what extent the State could follow the principle of equity in making available water to all users? Since prevalence of corruption is one of the biggest problems of a democratically elected welfare State, to what extent the rights exercised by it is efficient and delivers goods to the user-community? The State, given its rights to extend cities and towns, and in extending irrigation systems in order to bring more and more area under their command, takes away the existing rights of the people. To what extent is it justified? Water rights can also be looked at from the angle of human rights issue: This is more relevant in a situation in which the marginalized people, whose rights have been appropriated, are defenseless and cannot seek justice in a court of law. In this context it is necessary to distinguish between the rights gathered by the people over time and rights claimed /seized due to access over resources and due to nexus with the State (e.g., urban industrialists buying a piece of land in a village, installing a deep bore-wells and extracting unlimited groundwater for their industrial use, thereby contributing to drying up of groundwater in many wells who cannot afford to compete, or urban industries polluting the existing water bodies by discharging industrial effluent and thereby depriving their rights over water which they enjoyed for many centuries). What is the role of the civil society in water resource management ?
Pani Panchayat in Maharastra(29)
The term 'pani panchayat' actually refers to the mobilization of groups of farmers for the formulation and implementation of community irrigation projects. The term was first coined to denote the five member committee that was formed to oversee the first lift irrigation project set up by the Gram Gourav Pratishthan [GGP]. Today the term symbolizes the principles of equitable distribution of water.
Attempts to alleviate rural poverty have focused on provision of irrigation facilities through construction of public works like dams, percolation tanks, canals etc. However, many of these projects have failed to achieve their objectives because the have not resulted in the redistribution of resources among the rural population. Although land and water are equally important in agriculture, it is water that ultimately determines the economic status of the farmer. For, whatever the size of the landholding, without water it cannot be cultivated.
Even so, landownership has always been the crucial facto in stratifying rural society into rich and poor classes. This stratification has resulted in grave socio-economic injustice which have paradoxically strengthened over the years, largely due to the irrigation projects designed supposedly for the benefit of small farmers.
What generally happens with irrigation projects is that water is allocated in proportion to landholdings. Large farmers get more water and with increased production, their ability to use other technological inputs also increases. This widens the already existing gap between big-rich and small-poor farmers. Similarly, farmers
whose fields are located closer to the source of water get greater benefits than the farmers whose fields are located away from the source of water.
Mahur village in Purandhar block of Pune district is like a green oasis in the parched, drought prone district of Maharashtra. Standing on a small hillock, for miles around green fields could be seen. At the base of the hillock is a minor irrigation tank into which the rainwater is harvested. This almost perennially full water body is the lifeline of Mahur village and its principle of equity in water distribution is its sustenance.
Water is treated as common property resource with all villagers having equal rights and access to it. Farmers who were getting barely 50 kgs of Bajra and Jowar per acre and the annual income was Rs. 2500 are now earning Rs. 10,000, in addition to the traditional cereals, they are growing wheat, onions, vegetables, flowers etc.
The man who pioneered the radical technological and social water sheds and guarantees each family within the community and equal share of the water harvested is an engineer with his own factory. It was in 1972 after the terrible drought that affected some 4 lakh people, that Mr. Salunkhe realized the need to intervene. He realized the need for environmental regeneration and water shed development with full participation of he community.
Conserving soil and harvesting water was given top priority. A series of contour bunds were raised to trap water and check soil erosion. At the base of the hill slope, a percolation tank that could hold upto a million cubic feet of water was constructed. A well was dug below it and water pumped from there up the hill slope for irrigating the fields. Trees were planted in the rocky areas; fruit trees were grown in fertile areas and grass and shrubs regenerated on lands not being cultivated.
In order to overcome social injustices, the GGP laid down five basic principles of Pani Panchayat or Gram Gaurav Pratishtan :1. Irrigation schemes: Irrigation was taken up for group of farmers and not for individuals. Water is allocated on the basis of number of members in a family, rather than in proportion to land holding. A family unit of five is given water rights for irrigation of one hectare of land.
2. Cropping is restricted to seasonal crops with low water requirement. Crops like sugarcane, bananas and turmeric cannot be cultivated in pani panchayat areas.
3. Water rights are not attached to land rights. If land is sold, the water rights revert back to the farmers collective
4. All members of community, including the landless have right to water
5. The beneficiaries of the panchayat have to bear 20 percent of the cost of the scheme.
With farmers paying 20 percent of the cost of lift irrigation, the government provided another 50 percent and the remaining 30 percent was provided by pani panchayat as interest free loan.
Most of the Pani Panchayat schemes are located in drought-prone areas where water is a scarce resource. Therefore, judicious utilization of the water made available through the lift irrigation project becomes an important criteria for ensuring optimum gains to individual members. Under the Pani Panchayat schemes, water made available for irrigation is utilized for cultivating seasonal crops requiring less water, rather than crops requiring perennial irrigation and large quantities of water.
On basis of these principles, community lift irrigation schemes in Purandhar and neighboring taluqas have brought under irrigation about 3,000 acres of land, covering a population f 10,000 people from 1,500 families. The total capital investment has been Rs. 70 lakh, for which people have contributed their share of Rs. 15 lakh. Some projects have received subsidies amounting t a total of Rs. 15 lakh, and the remaining amount has been given by the GGP in the form of interestfree loans. In other cases, the GGP has helped farmers to obtain loans from nationalized banks.In about 10 years the number of lift irrigation schemes has gone up to more than 100 and most of them are functioning in a sustainable fashion. As a result farmers are able to produce two crops a year with an irrigation provision of eight months whereas earlier the land could sustain only spare amount of rain fed cultivation.
The GGP suffered numerous setbacks in its efforts to set up lift irrigation schemes because of political upheavals and the whims of politicians, which delayed the process of obtaining subsidies for the farmers.
The capital investment required for setting up the schemes were beyond the means of ordinary farmers, therefore, financial assistance in the form of subsidies or loans were required. When the first irrigation schemes were being planned in 1980, the GGP formulated a financial plan known as panch-teen-do, or five-three-two. This plan represented the ratios in which the finance would be raised from three sources. It meant that, of the total cost of setting up the lift irrigation scheme, 50 percent would be taken from the government in the form of a subsidy, 30 percent would be an interest-free loan from GGP, to be repaid in 5 years, and 20 percent would be contributed by the farmers themselves in cash and as voluntary labour.
At the time that the first lift irrigation schemes were formed in 1980-81, subsidy was available under the 'Minor irrigation Extension Programme-2 to 4 hectares'. This subsidy was available for small landholders, and for schemes prepared according to the rules framed for cooperative societies. Since a decision had been made not to formalize the schemes into cooperative societies, the farmers applied for the subsidy as small landholders.
The Equity Principle:
Most of the interventions that provide access to water resources benefit those who are in advantageous positions in terms of control and power, or due to the position of their landholdings in relation to the water source. Community efforts to provide access to water should ensure that benefit-sharing crosses all borders and the gains from the community action are shared as equitably as possible.
The success of group endeavors at the village level depends upon the perception of benefits of every group member. Members should feel that they have more to gain from becoming members of the group than by performing the activity on their own. The GGP lift irrigation schemes are group endeavors which ensure equitable distribution of water resources created. It is this perception of equal benefits that motivates farmers to come together to implement Pani Panchayat schemes.
People's participation in its true spirit means that the project itself is perceived by the people as belonging to them, and that they participate in the project right from its implementation and management. The contribution of voluntary labour or shramdam makes the farmers feel that they are working for their own welfare, rather than being recipient beneficiaries of a development scheme.
Leadership is necessary to keep the group together and focus on the main goals of the project. A very positive factor in the Pani Panchayat system is the local leadership that has developed, due to the emphasis on group initiation and group management. Most of the schemes are in resource-poor, drought-prone areas, and what has contributed to the development of local leadership is the sheer necessity to survive in a harsh environment. Farmers have taken up leadership roles to change their own lives and the lives of fellow farmers, when they felt that there existed alternative that would improve their socio-economic conditions.
The Pani Panchayat lift irrigation schemes are informal groups managed by the members themselves. They are not formally registered as cooperatives, societies or truts. Since the farmers themselves come together to omplement a project that benefits them, they do not feel the necessity to become answerable to any authority outside the village. Another important deterrent to formalizing the group is the issue of elections. Elections give rise to groupism which eventually destroys group spirit. Local politicians then enter the fray and attempt to capture the cooperative, thus undermining group endeavor even further.
In Pani Panchayat schemes, the group head and the five member committee are chosen unanimously, without elections. In this manner a major are of conflict is removed while structuring the group itself.
The advantage of an informal group is that it makes every member responsible and eliminates the chances of any member free riding on the efforts of other. It becomes
the responsibility of every member to keep the project going as his own stakes are involved. Every member's contribution becomes important and necessary.
In order to prevent misutilization of the scarce water resource in the Pani Panchayat schemes, decision was taken not to grow water intensive crops like sugarcane. Since the water is distributed on a 'per person' basis and the amount is limited, it becomes imperative for the farmer to plan for judicious utilization. Growing food crops thus becomes the most efficient way to utilize the rationed water. On an average, the Pani Panchayat scheme provides 7,000 to 8,000 cu meters of water to irrigate one hectare of land. This quantity is sufficient to grow food grains, and limited amounts of oilseeds and vegetables. In this way the farmer is able to cultivate some cash crops, along with food grains.
Drinking water at no Extra Cost
Most irrigation projects do not take into consideration the needs of both men and women water users. In order to utilize the available water efficiently for the community, it is necessary to understand the needs of both men and women users. Management of water resources can then be planned in a way that can accommodate the needs of the entire community. The Panchayat has made available for drinking purposes and domestic use. In Madhapur village, Yeotmal district for example, the village is situated atop a small hillock. The only source of water is at the foot of the hill. Under the lift irrigation scheme, a water tank was built near the settlement, due to which the women no longer have to walk up and down the hill to fetch water.
Pani Panchayat Rajasthana.
Rajendra Singh(30) joined Tarun Bharat Sangh in 1975. His first mission landed him in Rajasthan's Kishori village, the head quarter of the TBS today. Trying to understand the social dynamics over the next few months, he wondered why the villagers never improve their living conditions. Why was the land arid and unproductive? Where has the forest of the Aravalli gone? Why was there no ground water despite an annual rainfall of 600 mm?
It was then that he mobilized volunteers, villager into shramdan to de silt and deepens a pond. This was the start of the long drawn battle for the building of small check dams across small stream and rivers and conservation of lakes and wetlands.
Apart from providing work and irrigation, the water harvesting projects reunited families. Men who had fled to the towns began returning home to farm their once barren lands. The villages were no longer inhabited only by old men and children.
Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) has done pioneering work in building water harvesting structures (called Johads) in North-Eastern part of rural Rajasthan. Local population, motivated by TBS, builds Johads. The designs of these structures are based on local experience and traditional knowledge. These structures have raised the underground water - table very significantly, turning vast stretches of barren land into fertile agricultural land. Areas described as 'dark zones' due to low water tables has been re-designated as 'white zones' by the State. Two dry and seasonal rivers have turned perennial. People have found employment locally, and migration to urban areas has considerably been reduced. This has benefited ecology of the area. Since the work has been done in and around Sariska Tiger Sanctuary, it has benefited the flora and fauna a great deal.
Availability of water closer to villages and recharging of wells has benefited women tremendously who spend much less time now in fetching water for domestic use and for animals..
Water made life more meaningful for the women, they did not have to walk miles with half a dozen pots delicately balanced on their heads; water was now a stone's throw from their homes. Earlier they were condemned to sped their days fetching water, now they have time to take care of their children and send them to school. There is future. Another important impact of Johad building has been to bring the village society together. They have learnt to plan, supervise, execute and maintain works connected with Johads. Their voluntary contribution for building these structures as been upto 90% in some cases. Moreover the Aravallis today are green with forest and the once deserted land, look prospective grazing lands.
Pani Roko Abhiyan
For the first time in the last 50 years, several state governments are dealing with drought in a different ways - moving away from drought relief to drought mitigation. In Gujarat Pani Roko Abhiyan was started in the year 2001 when 23 out of 25 districts were drought hit and ground water level receded alarmingly, causing a loss of Rs. 4000 corers in agriculture to Gujarat government. Sardar Patel Participatory Water Conservation Programme (SPPWCP) was then initiated. In the programme the 40% cost is met by villagers and 60% cost by State government. By the end of the 2000, 13,539 structures had been erected. The villagers contributed Rs. 200 corers
from which 2500 check dams were planned. Due to the 2001 earthquake, only 800 structures could be made in this year. In Madhya Pradesh also Pani Roko Abhiyan started from Kalalhoont village of Jhabua district when it was crippled by two consecutive droughts, an NGO, Action for Social Advancement (ASA) offered the villagers to renovate tanks with 25% contribution of villagers. ASA, villagers and State govt. accepted the challenge and turned a calamity into an opportunity. The water, which was stored, was enough to irrigate more than 61 hectares of land and additionally recharged the wells. Such initiatives were started all over M.P. M.P. government spent Rs. 316 crore while people contributed Rs. 99 crore and the scheme reached out to all the 52,000 villages in the state.
The current rate of population growth, combined with the growing strain on available water resources, India could well have the dubious distinction of having the largest number of water-deprived persons in the world in the next 25 years. This is the scenario if the available resources are not managed judiciously and with care.
Urbanisation and an ever-increasing population(31) in the recent decades have contaminated water bodies, thus making them unfit for use. These, coupled with growing needs, have led to increasing dependency on ground water. Excessive tapping of ground water, through numerous boreholes, has led to a decline in the water table, whose means of replenishing itself have been greatly hampered.
Eighty-five per cent of India''s urban population has access to drinking water but only 20% of the available drinking water meets health and safety standards. It is estimated that by the year 2050, half of India''s population will be living in urban areas and will face acute water problems.(32) Furthermore, there are serious inequities in the distribution of water. Consumption of water ranges from 16 litres per day to 3 litres per day depending on the city and the economic strata of the Indian consumer.(33)
The water in rivers is wasted as it flows into the oceans and is not properly harnessed. The debate on dams as a means of harnessing water continues to make this issue politically and environmentally sensitive. No clear ecologically stable and financially viable solution has emerged. Water projects can bring many positive changes to the lives of poor people and can work particularly to improve the lives of rural women, small farmers etc. Governments play and will continue to play a critical role in rural development and resource management. Governments define the legal, policy and institutional frameworks within which water resources are managed and rural economies and societies function. The concept of Pani Panchayats has come to stay, if the state functionaries fail in their duty to provide basic means of livelihood to its masses, the people will and should be encouraged to manage their own local resources.(34) To this end, if conservation of wetlands is left to the management of local self government institutions, this will dilute State entity and will lead to increased people participation in decision making. If every State adopts strategy to tap rain water, scarcity would be a matter, forgotten.
1. B.Com, LL.M. PGDML. Research Officer, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
2. The ugly cousin of all this modern use of water resources is that pollution and disruption of natural systems. For example, when a factory uses water as a coolant, the water becomes warm. Often times when this heated water is dumped into thermally sound waterways, it is increases the overall temperature of the water. This may not seem harmful, but the problem is that warm water cannot hold much dissolved oxygen. The result is suffocation of many living organisms in the water that require dissolved oxygen. Much wildlife dies as a result of this pollution. Another problem is sewage dumping. With sewage there is a gross excess of nutrients; namely nitrates and phosphates. Although this situation may seem good, given that tremendous surge in plant and especially algae growth occurs, in fact, it is tragic. After the bloom season passes, all the formerly living surplus plants die and decompose. Decomposition requires oxygen. A major source of fresh water is ground water. This water is usually stored in aquifers or underground waterways. Sometimes, these aquifers are drained excessive and cannot be filled in time to meet
their original water amount. This process, called overdraft, can be more clearly defined as the drainage of a body of water more faster than it is filled.
3. Over 70% of the earths surface is covered by water. The amount of fresh water is only 0.8% of the world water supply, 1.8 % is frozen in polar caps and 97.4 % is salt water in oceans.
4. India is endowed with vast water and land resources. Renewable water resources in the country are estimated at 4 % of global availability. Estimates of early nineties indicate that the per capita availability of land freshwater in India are 0.2 ha and 2200 cubic metres against world average of 0.27 ha and 7400 cu.m. respectively. Global Water Partnership, Integrated Water Resources Management in South Asia: A regional Perspective for GWP action: Aug: 1998, P. S Rao, Water resource Management in India, P. 40
5. In 2025, about 84% of the population in industrial countries and 56% of developing country residents will live in urban areas. This represents a dramatic change from the present situation and will result in a relatively static level of rural population in many developing countries. But rural water management will have to support this population distribution and ensure that acceptable livelihood and environments are available. In developing countries the importance of women farmers is increasing as fewer men farm, and women achieve greater rights and recognition. Some observers estimate that worldwide, women farmers are
responsible for as much as 50 % of food production. A Vision of water for food and rural development, 17 March 2000 The Hague. World Commission on Water for 21st century. CEERA library
6. More than 90% of the world's total supply of fresh water is groundwater. However this source is getting depleted at an alarming rate due to increasing demand, or is getting due to industrialization, use of pesticide and fertilizers etc, and due to dumping of hazardous chemicals by households/industries.
7. Dr. Muhammad Nasir Gazdar, Global Water Resources for Irrigation, Agriculture Development, Global Development and Environment Crisis: Has Human Kind A Future, Asia Pacific Peoples Environment Network. P. 515
8. Singh, Environmental Law: International and National Perspectives 330 (1995)
9. See Chennai Metropolitan Ground Water [Regulation] Act, 1987
10. Art. 21 deals with right to life and personal liberty and according to the court this right includes the right to have clean air and water. Issues of water resource management, riparian rights and watershed rights are all responsible for the ability to procure pure air and water for the citizen of the country. See Subhas Kuamr V State of Bihar AIR 1991 SC 420
11. "whoever voluntarily corrupts or fouls the water of any public spring or reservoir, so as to render it less for the purpose for which it is ordinarily used, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three months or with fine of one thousand rupees or both".
12. It is covered by tort of nuisance as it causes injury to person and property, comfort and health. In Pakle v. P. Aiyasami(13)
13. AIR 1966 Mad 359
14. AIR 1959 Pat. 273
15. u/sec. 133 Cr.P.C, 1973, the Executive Magistrate may order the removal of obstruction, which is causing Nuisance, for it may cause public injury, discomfort to the health of the public. The power is wide enough to include ordering any Statutory body like the Municipal Corporation, to perform its statutory duty of maintaining health and sanitation, and for the lifting of garbage. [Ratlam Municipal case].
16. Another remedy available to citizens would be a complaint by a government or private agency may give to the State Pollution Control Board and wait for 60 days for the PCB to take action. Only in cases where the PCB does not respond can the citizen can go to the court. However it is to be noted that this applies only to suits under the Water Act of 1974.
17. The river is the main source of man's [fresh] water supply. The other major fresh water supply comes from the ground water whose level and quantities are, in turn maintained through the river and the river basin.
18. Report on Sector Consultation 'Water in Rivers'- towards a contribution to the World Water Vision; Water in River' Secretariat, World Water Vision, March 2000, p. 2
19. Commission on the Centre State Relations Report, 487-493 [Govt. Of India, 1988]
20. In the matter of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal, 1993 Supp. (1) SCC 96
21. In the year 1976
22. The Narmada Case and the Silent valley litigation
23. In this light, the Ramsar Convention on the protection of wetlands needs to be highlighted. India is a party to the convention and has done little to implement its objectives by way of legislative ratification.
24. To improve the quality of water better sanitation facilities are essential Agenda 21 proposes a three fold objective namely,
• • •
to maintain and protect the ecosystems of drainage basins world-wide to provide safe drinking water supplied to all humanity and to strengthen and localise water management programmes
All the above three objectives are necessarily interconnected. The entire issue of safe drinking water supplies must be viewed as an integral part of improving global environmental quality, enhancing living standards and health and providing for the sustainable development of the earth.
25. What are the rights that user communities enjoyed in the past? What is the process in which these rights have been appropriated by the State? (Chatrapathi Singh calls it and rightly so, `the right of a welfare-state ?, Sing, 1991)
26. See generally Steward,J.H(1955):Irrigation civilizations:A comparative Study, Department of Cultural affairs, Pan American Union, Washington,D.C
27. Singh, Chatrapati (1991): Water Rights and Principles of Water Resources Management, N.M., Tripathi, Bombay pp.67
28. Ibid pp. 68
29. The following is an abstract from a Case study work done by CEERA, for the Ministry of Irrigation, Government of Karnataka.
30. Magsaysay award winner 2001
31. Agriculture uses more water than any other area of human activity. Food and water security are therefore inextricably linked, and can only come from concerted action to achieve more crop productivity from every drop of water sued for agriculture, especially in the light of population growth.
34. The 73rd and 74th amendment to the India constitution advocates decentralized environmental governance, wherein the Panchayats and Municipalities have been empowered to manage their local resources. Unfortunately the spirit of this amendment has not yet been fully utilised by the local bodies.