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Water laws in

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Nepal

Water & Democracy Initiative

Researcher - Ms. Rakhi Sehgal

Water & Democracy in South Asia

1. 2. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Thrust of recent reforms & implications for South Asian communities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Water as an economic good not a natural resource Privatization and redefining the role of the State in public utilities Decentralization and User Participation Legal and Institutional Reforms Inter-linking of Rivers - 'solution' to water woes? 3. Annexures: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Tables of relevant water laws in each country Background on water resources in each country Beware - Profiteers are here to grab water

Water & Democracy in South Asia

Water & Democracy in South Asia

ANY governments across the world are in the process of reforming their water laws and policies. While it has been recognized that access to water comprises of human rights dimensions, and economic, environmental, social and cultural practices aspects, current changes are a seen as response to growing water scarcity as well as the processes of economic and political changes dominated by neo-liberal emphasis on structural adjustment and governance reforms. Although there has been an underlying awareness for the need to regulate the use of this basic natural resource to avoid water crises, in recent years the rhetoric around this issue has reached a fever pitch. Current water reforms have been proposed in an ideological climate in which water is seen as a scarce resource that is best managed by market mechanisms. While it is true that access to water has become more challenging and water scarcity and environmental issues need to be addressed urgently, the underlying causes for these developments and the terms of the debate as framed by multilateral development agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and corporate interests that have sought to influence the policies and water legislations in countries across the globe have been questioned repeatedly by communities affected by such policies and by activists concerned about increasing transfer of natural resources out of the reaches of local community control and government control into private corporate control, beyond of the realms of public accountability and transparency.

Increasing environmental concern reflected in the Rio and Dublin conferences in the early 1990s lead in January 1993 to the creation of a new Vice Presidency for Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) in the World Bank with water as the major focus of reform.1 The World Bank is one of the major actors in the global water sector, be it in terms of financial aid or in terms of general policy-making in the developing countries. In the 1990s it tried to integrate three concerns - environmental, internal World Bank
1. For a comprehensive analysis of the World Bank's role in the water sector see Matthias Finger & Jeremy Allouche, Water Privatization: Transnational Companies and Re-regulation of Water. Published by Spon Press and Taylor & Francis Publishing Group, 2001.

reforms and economic globalization - into the concept of 'water resources management' which replaced the concept of 'water resources development' and focus on water as a basic necessity and essential resource that should be provided to all. Instead, the World Bank argued that in order to promote environmentally and economically sustainable development, water resources have to be 'managed'. To facilitate this, water has to be treated as an economic good, a concept first articulated in the fourth Dublin principle. This fundamental change in treating water as an economic good underpins the entire gamut of reforms sought to be implemented in the current era. True to its neo-liberal economic principles, it is argued that if water is treated as a scarce economic good and managed according to free market principles with minimal State (i.e. political) involvement, people and politicians will behave more responsibly and unnecessary water wastage can be curbed. The World Bank ends up positing privatization as the answer to problems of access to water and water scarcity, and private rather than public control is deemed to be the magic wand to cure this sector of all its ills. Significantly, this approach also coincided with the changing approach to infrastructure development as laid out in its 1994 World Development Report. The World Bank concluded that public services were always under certain political constraints leading to governments' inability to properly manage infrastructures. The solution according to the World Bank was to reform a country's institutional and legal environment. 'Water as an economic good', 'privatization', 'decentralization', and 'user participation' thus emerge as the World Bank's principles for addressing the world's water problems.

Emergence of a complex framework for water allocation Competing social, economic and environmental objectives
A UNICEF report has aptly described the current water crisis as a "constant competition over water, between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists, minorities living off natural resources and entrepreneurs seeking to commodify the resources base for commercial gain." Water plays a critical role in sustaining ecological functioning, food production, economic activities, health and recreation. In addition it has spiritual and religious value for many people across cultures. The many competing uses of water and the need for balancing among them has given rise to the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management 6
Water & Democracy in South Asia

that emphasizes integration of the management of water resources, of surface and ground water, of upstream and downstream uses, of sectoral approaches, of economic production and environmental sustainability, and of the many stakeholders. There is need to reconcile goals of efficient economic production, social equity and environmental sustainability. The competing demands of urban and rural areas, the stubborn divide between the rich and poor, interstate differences and the balance between the needs of a thriving economy and a fragile environment are just a few challenges. With a gender perspective, many are arguing that women bear a disproportionate burden of the responsibilities relating to water: water collection, cooking, cleaning, family health, and sanitation, and are outlining their own approach to the water debate. Their stance is that privatisation will limit access to water, increase the price of water, and will reduce local control over resources. Though many women's groups are demanding improvements in access and sanitation services and increased investment in water infrastructure, they are also speaking out against privatisation as a solution. In place, they are frequently asking for participatory budgeting, gender-sensitive budgeting, and local governance so that local communities, and women in particular, can determine their own priorities, responsibilities, and appropriate solutions. To many indigenous peoples, water is sacred and they have developed their own unique system of values, knowledge, and practices to reflect this belief. However, they argue that Indigenous models of water management are often overlooked and that their traditions and livelihoods have been subordinated to commercial interests such as agriculture and industry. The violation of traditional water rights is also seen as a violation of land rights as, in many indigenous communities, the two are inextricably linked. This has especially been the case, they argue, with many major infrastructure projects such as mega-dams and large-scale water diversions. As a solution, Indigenous groups propose that they determine their own systems and strategies for water management that reflect both the right to equal access to water but also their unique relationship with water. Several indigenous communities signed the Indigenous Declaration on Water, outlining their rejection of the economic approach to water management and denouncing economic greed, pollution, and other unsustainable and destructive uses of water.
Water & Democracy in South Asia

2 Thrust of recent reforms

& implications for South Asian Communities
Water as an economic good not a natural resource Privatization and redefining the role of the State in public utilities Decentralization and User Participation Legal and Institutional Reforms Inter-linking of Rivers - 'solution' to water woes?

Water as an economic good not a natural resource

Since its first articulation in the Dublin Principles, the idea that water scarcity is the result of indiscriminate use and non-recognition of its economic value, has gained dominance in the water reforms sector. This implies a significant shift from conceptualizing water as a common public resource to water as an economic good. Concurrently there is a shift in conceptualizing water rights, and control over and access to water. Just as the land reforms under British colonial rule transformed land from a common public resource to private property with tradeable entitlements, so too the current water reforms intend to achieve the same with water. The opening statement of Government of India's (GoI) policy document, Guidelines on Swajaldhara 2002 states that, Water is today perceived by the public as a social right, to be provided free by the Government, rather than as a scare resource which must be managed locally as a socio-economic good. This perception has grown out of the fact that the present rural water supply systems are designed and executed by the Government Department/ Board for the end-users. Demand preferences of the people are generally not taken into account while planning and 8
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executing the schemes. In other words, rural water supply programme has been adopting a supply driven approach. Experience has shown that the present approach has led to the failure of a number of water supply systems/schemes due to poor operation and maintenance. The principle of universal water rights of all people (although unevenly implemented) will be replaced by the economic principle of water users which will exclude those without purchasing power to buy water in the water market. Water users associations function to exclude those who can not buy their way in to the association and therefore lose all rights to water resources. Incongruously the argument proffered is that the poor who are not being served by the existing municipal systems are buying water at exorbitant rates in any case from private sources, so putting in place a better regulated system will in fact help the poor by bringing down the rates at which they buy water. A related principle is that of full cost recovery. If water is to be seen as an economic good, users have to be charged the full costs. The same GoI document continues that, full cost recovery of operations and maintenance and replacement costs is expected to generate a sense of ownership and ensure the financial viability and sustainability of the schemes. The conditions under which people would be willing to pay capital cost partially and operate and maintain water supply schemes are (a) if they own the assets, (b) if they have themselves planned and installed the systems and been actively involved throughout in the process, (c) if they have been trained to do simple repairs, (d) if they know the Government will not maintain the asset, (e) if they have sufficient funds for maintenance, and (f) if they have to pay for operation and maintenance of the systems. While recognising that the concept of full cost recovery is detrimental to the interests of poor and marginalised groups, many are of the opinion that this concern needs to be balanced with the need for a more adequate economic valuation of water which will be determined by the nature of the use of water. So for example, water for bulk water users such as industrial and comWater & Democracy in South Asia

mercial users should be valued at a higher rate than say water for domestic consumption. Currently, drinking and irrigation water are heavily subsidized and urban water supplies in most countries have been financed out of general revenues. The policy being put in place is to ensure that not only do water users pay the operation and maintenance charges but also pay for capital costs of developing water infrastructure as outlined in several water users association. Although even if we were to agree to this logic, elimination of subsidies should occur gradually. However, water tariffs have been increased manifold in many cities pricing water out of reach of most people and in an interesting development state subsidies have in fact in most cases been replaced by World Bank loans as pointed out by Matthias Finger and Jeremy Allouche in their 2001 study. Coinciding with it is the idea that a shift is needed from developing more water resources and infrastructure to 'managing' existing ones especially as most have fallen into disrepair due to lack of investment and maintenance. Thus, all national and state water policies echo the World Bank and ADB thinking by emphasizing the need to harness water resources for economic development. Ironically, this involves mega projects such as interlinking of rivers and building even bigger dams, especially as the John Briscoe writes in a 2006 World Bank report that India has not developed enough big water infrastructures.

Privatization and redefining the role of the State in public utilities

A central part of this paradigm shift is the changing role of the State. Prior to the 1994 World Development Report, the World Bank considered the State to be a crucial factor in infrastructure development. However under the influence of neo-liberal ideology the World Bank redefined the role of the state as an 'impediment' to progress and the chief reason for the financial crisis in the water sector and for the poor physical condition of water infrastructure. Large and lethargic bureaucracies and the inability of the Water Bank to re-train the water utilities' staff were given as reasons to bring in the private sector which was painted as being corruption free, efficient, professional and most importantly, rational and free from influences of interest groups and


Water & Democracy in South Asia

politics. This reasoning fitted nicely with the recasting of water as a scarce economic good that had to be allocated according to market principles. As long as water was seen as a public good, the State played an important role in negotiating the demands for equitable allocation between different groups of society, and the State was held accountable by the citizenry through democratic processes and institutions. However, this very logic was turned on its head and the State and its political vulnerability to people's demands was recast as an obstacle to development and progress. The solution offered was privatization in many guises - private sector participation (PSP), private-public partnership (PPP) and the setting up of 'autonomous' regulatory authorities that were free from political interference. In effect, what this meant was that these institutions would be beyond the pale of public accountability and the public would have no means of making its voice heard and impacting the decisions imposed on it. In short, it meant depoliticization and disempowerment of the common people. To counter this criticism, people's participation and decentralization were incorporated as core principles. However, critics have rightly pointed out that these were no more than window dressings.

Decentralization and User Participation

Decentralization was offered as an antidote to a state bureaucracy that had grown too big and amassed immense powers while being unable to deliver public goods suited to local conditions. However, as defined by the World Bank not only did decentralization imply a reorganization of government institutions, divesting or delegating of powers to lower levels of administration but also to 'civil society', i.e. non-governmental organizations and private companies. The purported aim of decentralization is to allow stakeholders to be involved in decisions impacting them especially as the state is perceived to be unable to deliver the benefits due to the people. Similarly, user participation implies participation in policy making, planning, project design and management of water infrastructure. In reality, participation is limited to the tail end of the process and as Finger and Allouche point out the principle of user participation appears to be intended to make economic and fiscal decentralization acceptable, by seeking users' consensus on the overall project and by getting them to pay the increased users' fees at the local level.

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An example is found in the Government of India's Guidelines on Swajaldhara 2002: The community contribution towards the capital cost of schemes could be in the form of cash / kind/ labour / land or combination of these. However, at least 50% of the community contribution will have to be in cash. In case community contribution is more than 10% of the scheme cost, the excess amount shall be taken into operation and maintenance fund. Contribution from the community based institutions / organisations like Youth Club, Self-Help Groups, local Institutions and Gram Panchayats may also supplement the community contribution. However, such contribution will be over and above the community contribution and will not be included as part of the community contribution. Further, contribution from Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) or Member of Legislative Assembly Constituency Development Scheme (MLACDS), which are Government Programmes, is specifically prohibited. User participation is equated to consumer behaviour and ability or inability to pay user fees is not recognized, instead it is translated into willingness or not to pay the fees, in keeping with 'rational' market principles. Since property rights are rooted in legal entitlements, the transformation of water from a public good to an economic good that is transferable requires attendant transformations in the legal and institutional infrastructure. See BEWARE - PROFITEERS ARE HERE TO GRAB WATER Annexure C (page 68)

Legal and Institutional Reforms

Law has been a key tool to change the power equation vis--vis access to natural resources since colonial times. The statue law introduced in India by the colonial rulers "attacked indigenous, and community-based, systems of control and management of water."2 Colonial water legislation was aimed at


Water & Democracy in South Asia

facilitating the maximum generation of revenues for the colonial masters, ignoring in the process the basic rights of communities, such as the right to access drinking water and water for agriculture. Since maximization of 'value' can not be achieved without fixing the 'ownership' of the resource, water legislation was framed in a manner that introduced the notions of state 'ownership' of natural resources in the name of the broader public. Thus, all water resources whose ownership was not clearly demarcated such as the water within a parcel of land owned by a landlord, 'naturally' vested with the state which was free to use such resources for the larger 'public good'. The extensive rights over water appropriated by the colonial state effectively reduced the rights of "owners, users, and the generally unmentioned community." The principles and practice of water resource management are always rooted in local social, cultural and political institutions. In this context, the lack of autonomy of the community has increasingly meant that people have had to increasingly rely on the state for functions performed earlier by the communities, such as resolving local disputes over water, deciding how to equitably share waters within communities as well as across boundaries (of villages or states), or deciding best ways to conserve and prioritise the use of available water. In the colonial context increasing state power through statute law was "clearly intended to disempower a people",3 so too in the present context water laws are a key tool through which ownership, access to resources, and basic rights of people are being sought to be manipulated in favour of private corporations using the state as a via media. Recently proposed and ongoing water reforms are intended to totally redraw the legal framework governing water. In the domestic arena, water laws include scattered national and state laws as well as a patchwork of formal arrangements and customary rules and regulations.

2. Usha Ramanathan (1992), 'Legislating for Water: The Indian Context', IELRC Working Paper 1992-1: 1. Accessed at Also see, Phillipe Cullet, 'Water Law in India', IELRC Working Paper 2007-01, and Phillipe Cullet, 'Water Law Reforms', IELRC Working Paper 2006-03, 3. Ibid: 5.

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Water in the Constitutional Framework:

In Nepal, the right to water is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution but in practice it is universally recognised as part of the right to life. The right to drinking water is explicitly mentioned in the government's Water Resource Strategy 2002 (2058 BS). It states that, Every Nepali Citizen, now and in future, should have access to safe drinking water and appropriate sanitation as well as enough water to produce food and energy at reasonable cost. Drinking water is also considered to be an essential commodity under the Essential Commodity Protection Act, 1955 (2012 BS) which declares that drinking water should be strictly protected. The right to drinking water has also been recognized by the Supreme Court in several judgements. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, ownership of surface and groundwater rests with the state. The Indian Constitution does not explicitly state the right to water as a constitutional right. However, a number of constitutional provisions have been interpreted to recognize the right to equal access to water. Article 15(2) addresses the issue of socially disadvantaged groups being denied access to water and water resources in a community, Article 21 on the right to life has been interpreted to include all aspects of life, Article 39(b) directs the State to ensure that the ownership and material resources of a community are distributed in a manner that serves the larger common good, and the directive principles of state policy recognize the principle of equal access to material resources of a community while Article 51-A(g) requires every citizen to improve and protect the natural environment including the water resources. Explicit water laws in India are largely state laws due to the constitutional scheme of Government in which power to legislate over water rests with the states. Therefore, laws to regulate water supplies, irrigation, canals, drainage and embankments are the exclusive domain of states. The national government has powers to adjudicate inter-state river waters disputes, and regulate shipping and navigation on national waterways and use of tidal and territorial waters. However, increasing importance of water resources and recognition of the need for comprehensive national regulation, many recent aspects 14
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of water regulation have been brought under national legislations. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1996, were adopted by the Indian Parliament to address water pollution. Under this statute the Government of India has also notified the Central Ground Water Authority to address problems of over-exploitation of ground water in the country, particularly in the urban areas. Most of these legislations involve the setting up of an authority to grant permission for extraction or use of water from particular sources. It is only with the enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1992 granting panchayats (village level administrative units) the right to self-governance that a decentralized governance structure came into being, granting Panchayats administrative and legislative powers. However, since this system of decentralization is yet to work effectively, the control of village communities over their resources has been limited.

In Nepal ownership of water is explicitly vested in the state by The Water Resource Act 1992 (2049 BS) and supported by the public trust doctrine that the state owns natural resources including water. However, this is not an absolute ownership as some sections of this Act temper the States unfettered power by directing that the State must take into account people's interests while exercising its rights over water. Given the colonial history, irrigation laws constitute the most developed of water laws in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh share a common colonial history hence this section addresses the developments in the Indian subcontinent). The Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873 introduced the right of the Government to use and control water for broader public purposes while the Easement Act of 1882 made all rivers and lakes the absolute right of the state. The Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Act 1931 further consolidated this radical shift and asserted direct state control over surface water. This act is still in force and similarly the recent Bihar Irrigation Act, 1997 also provides for government ownership of all surface water. Besides statutory provisions, a number of common law principles govern access to water and rights over land. Rights to surface and ground water are recognized indirectly through land
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rights. Rules for surface water continue to be derived from early common rule of riparian rights. Therefore, riparian owners have a right to use the water of a stream running past their land equally with other riparian owners and they have the right to access these waters in undiminished quantity and quality. However, this rule is increasingly being challenged particularly in the context of viewing water as a public trust. The common law rule for ground water has been that access to and use of ground water is the right of the landlord. According to the Transfer of Property Act IV of 1882 and the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, a landowner has right to groundwater as an easement connected to land. However, with technological advances and increasing over-exploitation of ground water that leads to depletion of water resources from the common pools of groundwater that lie beyond the landlords own boundaries are calling into question the unrestricted rights of landowners over groundwater. Since groundwater is the major source of drinking water and water for irrigation, social concerns are necessitating the introduction of groundwater legislation. In fact the Indian government has been trying to encourage the various states since the 1970s to adopt groundwater legislation. Several states have since adopted ground water legislation. Another aspect to be considered is the nature and livelihood implications of groundwater markets as also political economy of power subsidy to agriculture and the viability of alternatives to metering. In 2000, India had roughly 81 million land-owning households with over 20 million tube wells and pump sets, while a large proportion of non-owners depend on pump set owners for buying their irrigation water supplied through local fragmented groundwater markets. Water markets are most prolific in eastern India, and more than two thirds of the irrigators in Bihar, UP and West Bengal rely on purchased irrigation. Access to canal water is limited to those having access to land in the canal command area and only in the form of user rights not ownership rights.

Water Rights:
Ironically even as the role of the State is sought to be transformed from a provider to merely a regulator, the establishment of water rights with legal backing does require a role for the state, particularly when modern water 16
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rights are sought to replace customary rights backed by local authority and social norms. Claims to water are usually based on many sources, practices and institutions such as community norms, religious values, historical practices, and laws enacted by different levels of government. Thus there is often a complex interaction that might include local conventions, principles, ideas and practices, different levels of government and, religious values and community level leaders. Replacing prevailing systems of implicit, multiple, community and overlapping rights with individualized rights have led to increased conflicts. No effort is being made to recognize customary practices in civil law. One example to do so is the way in which the Japanese River Law "deems" that agencies treat existing users as if they have water rights, without requiring any separate process of registration or formalization. Another commonly cited example is the Sukhomajri irrigation system in India, in which water rights under a newly constructed system were assigned to all village members, including landless households, based on labour investment in creating the system. Rather than replicating existing inequalities based on landholding patterns, rights were allocated in a manner intended to flatten the hierarchies and inequalities. There is a hierarchy of water users in the allocation system conceived today. The National Water Policy of India for example prioritises it thus: Drinking water Irrigation Hydro-Power Navigation Industrial and other uses. However, this hierarchy is based purely on the ability to extract profits for water corporations. Relatively wealthy "middle class" urban domestic users who can afford to pay a premium appear to have top priority; industrial and commercial users are another group that can 'afford to pay' and so get top level priority as well. Irrigation users come lower down in the hierarchy while rural domestic water users and the urban poor are at the bottom. This hierarchy is articulated in and effected via government policy and organized politics. In the absence of democratic processes to counter this hierarchy of
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power over water, the poorest sectors of the population lose endlessly and cumulatively. Alternative water allocation priorities that have been suggested include the following but governed on the basis of local conditions and requirements: i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) Drinking and domestic use Sustaining livelihoods Sustaining environment, maintaining river systems and aquatic life Irrigation and hydro-power Thermal power and industries Recreation and religious uses

vii) Navigation The first three uses have the highest priority but within these, the allocation of water should be decided by the people at the watershed level. For allocation to other uses where bulk supplies are required and where supply to the first three categories is affected, people's agreement would be necessary. Access to water not only impacts how people live, but also their livelihoods and incomes. Their inclusion or exclusion from access to this vital resource has far reaching consequences, and life and death implications. As access to water becomes more disputed, disparities between various groups may also become more pronounced. Typically, urban and industrial users are favoured over rural and agricultural users in terms of wealth, power, clout, and knowledge of bureaucratic procedures. They can typically organize and defend their interests more easily than the large number of dispersed users in rural areas. Moreover, the track record of most governments in the last several decades has been that when solving one locality or region's water problems they have ended up creating problems for another locality or region. Balancing water rights in the hilly terrain of Nepal is bound to be complicated. This is amply demonstrated by the findings of a researcher who arrived in far west Nepal to find that houses in the same village were often located hundreds of feet above a neighbour's house leading to unequal supply of water to the houses located higher on the slopes. This led to the homeowner's cutting the water supply pipes in order to stop their neighbour's from 18
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becoming the sole beneficiaries of a co-operatively funded water supply system. Everyone was forced to return to the river to collect their daily supply of water. Creating huge dams also creates up-steam/down-stream competition, deep bore wells in one area means scarcer water in wells in the surrounding areas, diverting waters for urban areas often deprives rural and coastal people of water and livelihoods. Social inequalities that get built into institutions of basic resource allocation are difficult to counteract with other policies, like land reform, cooperative credit, marketing schemes, education, employment schemes, or affirmative action. Caste and gender power plays are also a reality. Decision-making is dominated by upper caste men. In a Nepali village the water user association managed by an upper caste man from an affluent family and the group was dominated wealthy men who did not allow democratic decision-making. Moreover, since there was no transparency in how the funds were being used and people were unclear about how their monthly fee was used, and for what purpose, many of them had declined to pay their share. Furthermore, women were granted only a token presence and were not actively involved in the group. However, since women are the main users of water, they suffered the most when water infrastructure deteriorated and affected the supply of water but maintenance or repairs did not find priority among the upper caste male decision makers. In the same village, the tap of a Tamang (lower caste) tailor was removed without reason by Chettri (upper caste) men. Although indigenous water institutions have been severely eroded due to the impact of colonial and post-colonial governments' policies, there stills exists a rich diversity of locally- and community- managed water institutions, informal customs and conventions of water sharing. These are increasingly being sought to be co-opted or replaced by new forms of water sharing arrangements such as ground water markets, many forms of water contracts and rental markets for irrigation assets such as pumpset rentals, rentals of dugwells and tubewells, water transfer contracts. Recent attempts at formalizing water legislation and institutional mechanisms have marginalized customary practices and traditional water manWater & Democracy in South Asia


agers who play a critical role in local management of water resources. The peculiar nature of canal irrigation means that cooperation between farmers is very critical for equitable distribution of canal water. In terms of skill, these water managers are at par with any well-experienced irrigation engineer and top level business executive managers. And in terms of knowledge, their comprehension of the terrain, drainage and irrigation needs is much beyond that of present day irrigation engineers. They are referred to as Havaldary, Jaliya or Patkari in Maharashtra, Churpun in Ladakh, Neerkattis in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and Kollalu in Uttaranchal. Their role was to allocate water among cultivators accessing common water resources like tanks and providing services like watering crops, protecting tanks and water resources, and mobilizing local communities for the same. Such traditional institutions were already on the decline due to their responsibilities passing onto the Public Works Department (PWD) and due to changing social structure in villages. Now they are being sought to be replaced by water users associations. This is being observed in other Asian countries such as Nepal, Thailand and Philippines as well. Although there is plenty of evidence that communities had successfully evolved and implemented systems of sharing common water resources, supporters of current water reforms argue that a system of individual-based water rights system will help to reduce externalities, assign payment responsibilities, and minimize inter-personal conflicts. Legal and institutional reforms are being sought to be implemented in order to effect these changes. In reality, rather than addressing issues of equity these systems will make matters substantially worse by enlarging the pool of the excluded due to their inability to pay for participation in such institutions as the water users associations. Moreover, water rights in India have customarily been governed by prevalent caste structures whereby dominant caste groups have denied or regulated the access of common water resources by the socially disadvantaged caste groups. These practices continue in spite of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 which makes this a punishable offence. Current reforms do not adequately address these inequities. Nor do they address inequities of class that is so structured that nearly 118 million households - 62 per cent of the total - do not have access to drinking water at home and their only access is through 20
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community taps of handpumps that World Bank and Asian Development Bank projects are aiming to get rid of. The only access to water for about five million Indian households (roughly the size of Canada's population) is from ponds, tanks, rivers and springs but where big dams are further marginalizing the poor's access to water. Privatization of water and the mantra of full cost recovery is now pricing them out of their livelihoods, be it farmers and rising irrigation costs or poor slum dwellers who can not afford metered piped water or bottled water as envisioned by the architects of currently proposed water reforms. Another area of conflict regarding water rights and rights over natural resources is that between environmentalists and forest dwelling people who have had traditional rights over forest resources. An instance of such a conflict is the case of the Government of Madhya Pradesh granting 305 fishing permits to tribals living near the Pench National Park to fish in the Totladoh reservoir located in the national park after these tribals had been evicted from the park when it was notified as a national park. Fishing permits were granted to the tribals as they had not been rehabilitated after eviction and fishing in the Totladoh reservoir was their only means of livelihood. Although the fishing permits came with a plethora of restrictions, the environmentalists challenged it nevertheless. Yet another area of conflict is the rights of farmers versus the rights of villagers engaging in the growing culture fishery in common property tanks in rural areas. There are implications for food security as well especially if like farmers in Haryana productive fields are converted into tanks for culture fishery. The conflict between different states over the sharing of river waters and conflicts over diversion of waters from rural to urban areas such as has been implemented in the Narmada and Yamuna rivers adds to the growing list of access to water and water rights of various sections of society. Conflict between industries' right to water and villagers' right to water is best illustrated by the famous case of the coca cola plant and the struggle of the Plachimada villagers in the state of Kerela. Villagers' access to drinking water was severely depleted by the overexploitation of groundwater by the coca cola bottling plant that was set up in Plachimada village. The village panchayat decided to cancel the licence of the plant in 2003 which was challenged by the company in the Kerela High Court. After many ups and downs
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and High Court judgements that first accepted the villagers' position and then reversed it in favour of the company the case is currently pending in the Supreme Court. However, the determined struggle of the villagers has forced this issue onto the national consciousness like never before and it demonstrated the impact of united community level action and the role of panchayats in protecting a community's right to water against corporate greed and corporate hijack of water in many guises. Another example of this hijack is the famous example of the sale of a river in the state of Chattisgarh where a state owned industrial development corporation allowed a private company exclusive rights to 23.5 km of the Sheonath River. The company had been granted permission to build barrages and divert waters into a reservoir which in turn would be sold back to the state owned corporation to be re-sold to end users in a nearby industrial town. Not only was the company hijacking what had thus far been a state responsibility but it was also depriving fishing communities from their traditional right to fish in the river and it was depriving small farmers of water essential for irrigation. Strong protests by the people forced the government to cancel this agreement. However, this is not an isolated case. The Malapuzha River and dam in the state of Kerela was offered 'for lease or sale to private parties' through advertisements in US newspapers. These ads did not appear in local newspapers. When rivers, dams and canals are privatized, 'rainfall is privatized' P. Sainath rightly points out. The question then arises and is left unanswered by those pushing water reforms - can anyone own water? This question comes to the fore again when water rights of corporates is privileged as in Mumbai where private theme and water parks were found to be guzzling 50 billion litres of water daily while the women of Mumbai slums waited in queues for hours for a measly 20 litres of water. Or in scarcity hit Vidharbha village of Bazargaon where people only get one tanker of water once in ten days while the nearby 'Fun & Food Village' has access to millions of litres of water for its 18 kinds of water slides and where the government is encouraging crisis struck farmers to take up milk production which would fetch them Rs 6 per litre while they pay Rs 12 for a litre of bottled water. To put it in perspective, the amount of water Coca Cola Company consumes in one year (283 billion litres of water worldwide) is enough to meet the entire 22
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world's populations drinking needs for ten whole days according to the India Resource Centre. And the amount of water the company consumes in India would be enough to meet the needs of entire districts in Orissa or Rajasthan for one whole year. The thrust of current reforms seeks to centralize and bring under one umbrella the dispersed, regionally uncoordinated nature of Indian water laws, institutions and practices and to replace political accountability with technocratic fixes in the name of addressing inefficiencies caused due to people's resistance or people's ability to influence the political system and hence government decisions in the water sector. Privatization and setting up of 'autonomous' and 'neutral' regulatory authorities are some of the preferred solutions for overcoming or bypassing people's resistance to the proposed reforms that are primarily aimed at facilitating corporate hijack of the water sector. First generation water reforms have focused primarily on urban drinking water and groundwater legislation.

Responsibility for providing drinking water:

As noted above, there is no legislation in India that says governments have to provide water to citizens. But, courts have ruled that the right to water is part of the constitutional guarantee of right to life. It has also been implicitly accepted since Independence that central and state governments have a primary responsibility for providing water for drinking, and, subsequently, for other purposes. Provisions for supplying drinking water have been made in all the Five-Year Plans, and the responsibility was made explicit in the Twenty-Point Programme drafted in 1975 and modified in 1982 and 1986. Accordingly, a host of programmes have been framed and implemented at the central and state levels, such as the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme and the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission. A gamut of laws has also been drafted, including: Laws establishing water boards for urban water supply. Laws enacted for water supply in metropolitan cities.

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Laws for water supply in the state as a whole. Laws on regulation of groundwater extraction and use. Laws on protection of water sources. Laws for supply of water to specific industrial areas. Elaborate institutional mechanisms have been set up to provide water. Responsibilities of PRIs Under the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, states may transfer powers and responsibilities to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) with regard to minor irrigation, watershed development (panchayats) and water supply for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes (municipalities). Devolution of power to panchayats has generally not occurred. Devolution of drinking water-related powers and responsibilities to Zilla Parishads (ZPs) has, however, taken place. In Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, 1938, inter alia lists the duty of gram panchayats to maintain minor irrigation works with a cultivable command area of less than 100 hectares, which are not entrusted to ZPs. ZPs have been entrusted with the task of maintaining irrigation projects with command areas of less than 250 hectares, under the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961. ZPs are also responsible for rural water supply schemes. Under Section 79 A of the 1961 Zilla Parishads Act, every ZP has to set up a water conservation and drinking water supply committee. The committee must include one or two people with "special knowledge or experience in the subject of water conservation and drinking water supply". These associate members of the committee do not enjoy voting rights. The committee can exercise powers related to the subject as allotted to it under the provisions of the Act. The chief executive officer of the ZP has the power to: Order the owner of any water supply source, such as a well or tank, to keep it clean and in good repair (Section 192). Set apart public springs, tanks, wells and parts of public water courses for drinking purposes, for bathing or for washing clothes and animals (Section 194). 24
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Prohibit the use of water from any source to which the public has access (Section 194).

Regulation of groundwater use:

Groundwater is the main source of water across India, for all purposes. Around 80-90% of rural drinking water needs are met by groundwater, and groundwater serves around half of India's net irrigated area. Groundwater extraction has risen exponentially since the 1950s due to various reasons such as the introduction of Green Revolution technologies, increased cultivation of cash crops, and electricity subsidies for irrigation pumpsets. Extraction exceeds natural recharge in many parts of the country. In response to an emerging crisis that threatens the life and livelihoods of millions, the Centre, in 1970, framed a Model Groundwater (Control and Regulation) Bill for adoption by the states. Revised in 1972, 1996 and 2005, the Bill provides the framework to regulate use of groundwater in India. Some states like Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have passed legislation based on this model Bill. The revised version of the central Bill proposes: Compulsory registration of borewell-owners. Compulsory permission for sinking a new borewell. Creation of a groundwater regulatory body. Restrictions on the depth of borewells. Establishment of protection zones around sources of drinking water. The Bill mandates: Periodical reassessments of groundwater potential on a scientific basis, considering quality of water available and economic viability. Regulation of exploitation of groundwater sources so that extraction does not exceed recharge. Development of groundwater projects to augment supplies. Integrated and coordinated development of surface water and groundwater so that they are used conjunctively.
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Prevention of over-exploitation of groundwater near the coast to stop the ingress of seawater. These mandates, which have yet to become law in most parts of the country, sound good on paper. But there is one basic flaw: implementation is entirely in the hands of government authorities; the people who use groundwater have no role in decision-making or implementation. This runs contrary to customary belief regarding ownership of groundwater (discussed above) and the experience of groundwater regulation anywhere in India and the rest of the world. All the evidence so far clearly shows that groundwater use cannot be controlled solely by government; it can be controlled only with the close involvement of all primary stakeholders -- those who use groundwater excessively as well as those who suffer because of over-use. The first right to groundwater should be to the concerned community and not to an individual on landownership basis. In areas with scarcity of water, the respective community organisations should have the right to inspect and monitor the use of groundwater by private landowners to ensure that groundwater beyond permissible limits is not being withdrawn. Diversion of groundwater to urban areas or for industrial use without consent of the gram sabha/village community should also not be permitted. Development of groundwater resources should be so regulated as not to exceed the recharging possibilities, as also to ensure social equity. The detrimental environmental consequences of over-exploitation of groundwater need to be effectively prevented by legislation and its enforcement. Groundwater recharge projects should be developed and implemented with community participation for augmenting the available supplies. The Government should transfer the authority for regulating groundwater use to the lowest level, the Gram Sabha. Experiences from India such as the water conservation spiritual mobilisation initiated in Saurashtra (Gujarat) by Pandurang Shastri Athavale following the 1985-87 drought, the models developed in Maharashtra (for example, Ralegan Siddhi) and in Alwar (Rajasthan) show that regulation by people themselves can and does work. If regulation by people has to cover the entire state, the government obviously has a role to play. That role is providing an enabling legal and policy framework. 26
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Water for Agriculture

In the post World War era, even though prices of agricultural products were falling, food production doubled in response to the enormous increase in world population. During this time, developing countries increased per capita food consumption by 30%. World-over the largest demand for the water comes from agriculture and according to a World Bank study more than twothirds (up to 90% by some estimates) of the water withdrawn from the earth's rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation. Cash crops, newer crops (green revolution) and technological interventions in agriculture have led to an increased need for water. Moreover, in the global debate about water scarcity, agriculture is associated with inefficient use of water. Other problems include wasteful water use due to heavy subsidies provided for both electricity and the capture of water by influential and rich farmers at the expense of poorer farmers, rural and women workers and control of irrigation systems by rent seekers who are usually well connected with local decision-makers and power brokers. In rural areas, water is an essential input in crop and livestock production and lack of adequate water resources is linked to poverty. While food security requires a focus on water for food production, agricultural and irrigation policies have focused primarily on medium and big farmers and ignored other categories of rural workers and water for small productive activities such as fruit trees and small vegetable plots. It is important to identify different categories of farmers and rural workers according to their level of integration in the local economies as well as gender and caste issues. In areas where men migrate and the women and elderly stay back to tend to small plots of land, it is important that their specific needs and coping strategies be taken into account while framing water policies for agricultural use. Since the 1990s, funding for agriculture has been made conditional on adoption of reform packages that require a balanced fiscal budget, a reduced role for the state and a larger role for the private sector, economic water pricing, financial autonomy for irrigation agencies and the devolution of governance and management responsibilities to lower levels. Decentralisation, devolution, privatisation, public-private partnerships for irrigation management have been proposed at various stages. Decline of public sector investment in
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irrigation systems or strengthening of local conservation practices, local institutions and indigenous technological choices do not find mention in these water reforms debates. The debate has been further skewed due to an excessive focus on big dams for water storage rather than regenerating local reservoirs and water bodies, rainwater harvesting, and local conservation practices. Rather than focusing solely on water in agricultural production adopting a livelihoods approach is important to improve the socio-economic livelihood circumstances of rural households. However, the recent shift in recognizing irrigation as a service with customers and users, and not as a production industry creating food security is also fraught with danger. Policy reforms stress steep increases in tariffs, full cost recovery, elimination of subsidies, cutting off supplies for non-payment and allocation of water to highest value use through market mechanism. Agriculture sector, already in severe crisis, will be pushed even more into distress as water prices for irrigation zoom. Those who can not pay the (steep) charges, will be thrown out or and further marginalized and ultimately water resources will be captured by those who can pay. Water allocation in an irrigation system should be done with due regard to equity and social justice. Disparities in the availability of water between head-reach and tail-end farms and between large and small farms should be obviated by adoption of a rotational water distribution system and supply of water on a volumetric basis subject to certain ceilings.

Debate on Inter-linking of Rivers as a 'solution' to water woes4

India is considering large-scale engineering projects, similar to those adopted in China, such as the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. The most talked about project is the $112 billion Interlinking of Rivers project. The ILR was approved by the President of India in 2002 and is due to be completed in 2016. This project will link all 37 rivers by thousands of miles of canals and dozens of large dams. This project is intended to increase the amount of water available for irrigation and would add 34,000mw of hydropower to the national pool. The average annual precipitation ranges from about 200 mm
4. Section based on the debate at, particularly "The doubtful science of interlinking", by Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Shama Perveen.


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in some locations in the western parts of India to about 11,000 mm in the Northeast. Wide temporal inequity in precipitation, on the other hand, is caused by about 80 percent of the precipitation occurring within a short span of 2.5 months from July to September. Due to this spatial and temporal concentration of rainfall, rivers in some parts of the country experience regular annual Monsoon inundations, often described as flood disasters. On the other hand, areas with lower precipitation are increasingly facing water scarcity, and as conservation measures have dwindled, they become unable to meet the diverse and growing demands of water. political leaders at all levels have sold the idea of solving the water problem by harnessing the huge monsoon run-off in the main rivers of the northern half of the country through large storage dams, and to supply it to the water-scarce western and southern regions. The success of India in maintaining a high growth rate in food production, ahead of the population, further encouraged such ideas. The present proposal for interlinking of rivers in India, offering a combination of storage dams and transfer canals, similarly, has been offered as a long-term supplyside solution to water shortages, especially in the drier parts of the country. In August 1980, the Indian Ministry of Water Resources framed a National Perspective for Water Development and the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) was established in 1982, to carry out studies in the context of the National Perspective. According to the information available in the Report of the National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development Plan (NCIWRDP), the interlinking proposal aims at providing large-scale human-induced connectivity for water flows in almost all parts of India, through a total of 31 links on both the Himalayan and the Peninsular Components. However, the issue gained renewed currency in political, legislative and civil domains after the Supreme Court of India, in connection with a Public Interest Litigation, passed an order on 31 October 2002 for the completion of the interlinking of rivers within a period of 12 years. The idea of interlinking of the rivers of India is described by - from the President down to local leaders in the less water endowed areas - as the perfect win-win solution for addressing the twin problems of water scarcity in the western and southern parts of the country and the problem of floods in
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the eastern and northeastern parts. Unfortunately, as far as the proposal for interlinking is concerned, there is little information available to the open world of science, beyond some lines drawn on the map of the country. Unless the scientific basis and technical details of the proposal are made available for open professional assessment, the justifications that are being propped up for the project will remain mere exercises in the act of guessing on the part of the people, and professing on the part of the water resource officials. It is important to make sure that such a costly project is not based on an outdated and questionable scientific basis. The proposal for interlinking of rivers is critically dependent on the identification of some river basins or sub-basins as 'surplus' ones, from which water may be transferred to the 'deficit' river basins, as a win-win solution. This is projected as a permanent solution to the problem of human sufferings from water scarcity and floods. Indirect ecosystem services provided by water, for instance in the conservation of biodiversity, or its role as a mobile solvent, and many others, have been neglected.The ecological significance of the unhindered flows in the river is critical to drainage, transportation of sediments, recharge of groundwater, maintenance of the delta and highly productive estuarine ecosystems and related biodiversity. The methodology for working out whether a river basin has any 'surplus' water or not, as recommended in the Report of the Working Group on Interbasin Transfer of Water (NCIWRDP, 1999b) of the Ministry of Water Resources, is based on an unpublished paper. The scientific status of an unpublished document is surely not an established one, as far the open community of scientific professionals is concerned. In following this approach, a simple exercise in arithmetic hydrology has been employed, that appears to be either not informed of, or ignores the whole set of ecosystem services provided by water. Whilst the process for the assessment of irrigation, domestic and industrial needs have been dealt with in the Report of the Working Group, there is no information given on how the assessment of the environmental water needs for salinity control or other water needs for the continuation of diverse ecosystems services provided by water in the various parts of the basin, would be made. When the reductionist vision of arithmetical hydrology is replaced by the holistic perspective of ecohydrology, the outflow of a river to the sea is no more seen as a 'loss', nor floodwater is seen merely as a harmful 'surplus'. 30
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Whilst floodwater in eastern India is seen as a 'harmful surplus' from the viewpoint of arithmetical hydrology, from the ecohydrological viewpoint, the same floodwater is seen as the source of free minerals for the enrichment of land, free recharge for the groundwater resources, free medium for the transportation of fish and conservation of biological diversity, free bumper harvest for the humans, etc. Even early irrigation and river experts had looked at floodwater as a useful resource and not simply as a 'harmful surplus'. There are also cautionary statements that diversion of water from the 'surplus' to the 'deficit' basins would bring in significant impacts on the physical and chemical compositions of the sediment load, river morphology, aquatic biodiversity and the configuration of the delta, the assessment of which is not possible by 'arithmetical hydrology'. These downstream processes undoubtedly have serious economic and livelihood implications and it is a national imperative to address and assess them. Bharat Singh, who chaired the 'Working Group on Interbasin Transfer of Water' of the Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR), takes the position that: There really seems to be no convincing argument or vital national interest, which can justify this mammoth undertaking (interlinking), in its entirety. Any transfer of water from one basin to another is not a simple arithmetic exercise. There are diverse social, economic and ecological impacts of all transfers from one basin to another that need to be assessed. Further, those affected socially or economically by the negative aspects of such impacts, should be fully compensated for. In the openly available information on the proposal for interlinking, there is no reference to the assessment of such costs. It is apparent that there are many important reasons for examining the scientific validity of the justifications put forward for this very costly project. For doing this in a fully professional manner, the civil society in the country, however, is dependent on the MOWR making available in the public domain, all the pre-feasibility, feasibility and the detailed project reports regarding the interlinking proposal. Projects on transfer of large volumes of water have usually been justified by considering only the direct cost of construction and operation of the engineering structures. Careful analysis and evaluation of all costs (intrinsic social, economic and environmental costs) therefore, becomes a sine qua non for a more informed decision making.
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Will the Proposed Interlinking of Rivers Offer a Permanent Solution to the Scarcity of Domestic Water Supplies in the Drier Parts of the Country?
Domestic water requirements, although very important in terms of priority, account for a very small part of the total national water requirements. The official method for the identification of 'surplus' or 'deficit' river basins, surprisingly, removes this prioritisation and clubs together all the various water requirements. Such computations create an anomalous situation. If the objective of providing domestic water security is given the highest priority, and not clubbed with the irrigation or industrial requirements, not many areas in India would come out as water deficit in a systematic water balance study. Case studies had been undertaken by the group of international experts in a few areas of the country known as water scarce areas. The study makes it clear that if the precipitation within the concerned watersheds or sub-basins is harvested and conserved properly, satisfaction of domestic water needs will not be a problem in most parts of the country. The supporters of the proposed interlinking of rivers, by projecting an impression that, it has all the solution to the problem of water scarcity in India, has diverted public attention away from taking up local level steps for harvesting and conservation of water. A dangerous psyche has been created that there is enough water in the 'surplus' rivers to cater to all the needs of all. What is to be done is only to transfer water from one basin to another. That is how, when a more than average rain falls on water scarce Rajasthan, as was the case in the Monsoon months of 2003, no steps were taken for harvesting the excess rainwater that fell on Rajasthan. Whilst the economic efficacy and optimality of the proven technology of community based harvesting and conservation in providing domestic water security has been proven repeatedly, the interlinking project proposes to supply domestic water in the drier areas through collection at far away points and distribution through inefficient long canals or existing riverbeds. The problem of water scarcity is more clearly present in the uplands and areas away from the rivers. The task of providing domestic water supplies to rural areas in exceedingly dry parts of the country will nonetheless still remain largely unsolved, even if the interlinking project is completed. What follows is that there is a clear danger in believing that the interlinking proj32
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ect is the last word and the first choice for solving the problem of domestic water security all over the country. The supply of domestic water needs in the case of India may soon become more economic through desalination plants, the cost of which process is going down significantly.

Does India's Food Security depend on the Proposed Interlinking of Rivers?

Food production is a matter of area under agriculture and yield. Food consumption is a matter of per capita consumption and the total population. India has the largest irrigation network and second largest arable area in the world. Forgetting about the factor of distribution or low purchasing power, per capita availability of food is the most visible indicator of food security. Recent agricultural statistics reveal that with improvements in farming technologies and plant genetics, we have achieved a record food grain production of 211.32 million tonnes in 2001-2, which is 15.40 million tonnes more than that of the previous year. Between 1950 and 2000 annual cereal production per capita rose from 121.5 to 191.0 kg. Food security is, however, a matter of food production and equity in distribution or purchasing power. For guaranteeing food security, both the quantitative availability and an equitable distribution system is essential. Following which, despite the huge buffer stock of food grains in India, an estimated 200 million people are underfed and 50 million are reportedly cringing below starvation.

How much foodgrain will India need in future?

In spite of the above, the proposed interlinking of rivers is being projected as necessary for food security of India. No scientific justification for this has been given separately by the NWDA or the Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers. In view of the recent trends in food consumption and considering socio-economic factors, the Commission has accepted the food and feed demand projected by Ravi with yearly growth rate of 4.5 per cent per capita expenditure. This amounts to 194, 218 and 284 kg of foodgrains per head per year for the years 2010, 2025 and 2050 respectively. It is quite relevant to point out that the basis for such a drastic increase in the annual per capita foodgrain requirement is probably rooted less in reality and more in the use of income demand elasticity for estimating future foodgrain demands. Firstly, this approach is not very helpful. Secondly, it conflicts with the field
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level data like those of the National Sample Survey (NSS). As of now, there is no scientific reason to accept the claim that India's food security depends on the interlinking of rivers.

Food security and low yield of foodgrains in India

The other factor related to food security is the yield. In spite of the availability of good water and land, our agricultural productivity stands at a very low level when compared with other countries of the world. Food security in India has, somehow, got almost uniquely tied with the expansion of flood irrigation, at the cost of other factors. China faces foodgrain related problems similar to those of India, probably in a more acute manner. It has a larger population to feed, with much less arable land. However, as Swaminathan (1999:73) has pointed out, China produces 13 percent more foodgrains per capita than India. Agricultural scientists in India are foreseeing great technological breakthroughs that would push agricultural productivity very much upwards in the coming years. However, the calculations of India's food production in the coming decades, made for showing the interlinking project as an essential step for food security, are based on the assumption that even after 50 years from now, India will attain field-level yield levels that are only two-thirds of what has already been achieved in the experimental farms. Moreover, in the projected plans for irrigation, there is a provision of 30 percent of the irrigation water going for non-food crops. Thus, serious questions can be raised on whether the additional irrigation for foodgrain production as proposed under the interlinking of rivers, is at all related to the food security of the country. it is important to note that China, with only half as much arable land per capita as India, today is not thinking in terms of drastically increasing the volume of water in agriculture but increasing the water use efficiency in the existing irrigated areas. The lack of interest in end-use efficiency in irrigation will push the farmers to the soft but costly solution offered by the interlinking of rivers. It is clear that the further physical expansion of irrigation is neither needed nor is it the most cost-effective option for maintaining India's food security. The above makes it clear that the proposed interlinking of rivers in India is not essential for India's food security. There are many other ways to sustain food security, of which the proposed interlinking is surely the most costly one. All the available options need to be seriously explored before thinking 34
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of the interlinking of rivers. Hence, before jumping into such a gigantic and expensive project, it is a national imperative that the costs for maintaining food security along all possible technological options, are examined. Particular attention should be given to the removal of the obstacles to technological changes in agriculture.

Transferring and Pricing Water

Of course, there is another side to all this. The ready availability of additional water transferred in the name of food security, in the absence of any legal control on the way it would be priced or used, would promote water intensive industries and commercial crops in the dry areas, that should have been located in the better water endowed areas. This is a rather wasteful way of looking at hydrological equity within the country. In place of transferring huge volumes of water over a long distance through an expensive process, transportation of "virtual water' to the water scarce areas would be more efficient, economically, socially and environmentally. If at all, the transfer of water from the 'surplus' basins to the 'deficit' basins has to be undertaken for such industrial and commercial purposes, a proper pricing mechanism should be in place. In this way, inter-state water markets can flourish in which any possible transfer would be worked out through the market. If such a market gets established, that may be the beginning of mutually agreed inter basin transfers between the states, making the very expensive and centrally promoted interlinking project redundant. Food production should be protected from the variations in the Monsoon. From the above analysis, it becomes clear that though the main declared justification of the interlinking project comes from its claim about providing additional 173 BCM of water, reportedly for irrigation to ensure India's food security, much less expensive and smaller scale options are available for ensuring the same. It is imperative that comparative costs of all the possible paths to food security like introduction of qualitative changes in agriculture, technological improvements including more efficient use of water in irrigated areas, be assessed and only then appropriate decision taken.

Will the Proposed Interlinking of Rivers Enhance Water Conflicts in South Asia?
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cipitation or as inflows from upstream countries, experts have been warning India of difficult times with water. News of widespread conflict have been received from many regions. Whether it is between Haryana and Punjab in the North or between Karnataka and Tamilnadu in the South, India has had a spate of conflicts related to water availability. This present crisis however, is a result of factors that have been operating over a long time. One such has been the widely perceived 'human induced water scarcity', which understandably generates the potential background for regional water conflicts to emerge. Another crucial component has been the inherent failure on the part of the policy makers to perceive the upstream-downstream linkages, which have become a major source of conflict over water use in river basins, all over the world. Conventionally, the thinking has been that inequitable distribution of freshwater leads to violent inter and intrabasin conflicts. Unmindful of whether this scheme alters the hydrographic picture of the country irreversibly or infringes the riparian rights of communities permanently; the interlinking project is sold as an instrument for the hydrological equity of the country. Justice and equity depends upon a variety of factors ranging from environmental, hydrological, socioeconomic, cultural, education and traditional. In the present context of interlinking however, it can be safely said that unscientific and wasteful uses of water cannot provide hydrological equity in a country. Some analysts have argued that the interlinking project has the potential for generating four distinct types of conflicts. These are over: Compensations for resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced Compensation for environmental damages from the project Sharing the benefits and costs of the project among the states of India Cooperative management of the project in international river basins Water being a state subject, the issue of transference of riparian rights under the centralised river link proposal needs to be resolved simultaneously and equally. Though talks are in place to change the control of water sector from states to Centre and of diverting water from 'surplus' to deficit basins in India, no clear indications are in place as to how the present institutional structure would be revised or changed to accommodate these modifications. This is 36
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one topic, which is immensely important and at the same time complex. The absence of an established framework for addressing the conflicts systematically, though global concerns about the need for it have been expressed frequently, perpetuates the dilemma further. Inevitably, transboundary water related conflicts may also follow. Ramaswamy Iyer, former Secretary of Water Resources, warns that the scheme risks major confrontation with Bangladesh, which gets much of its water from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, after the rivers leave India. The water resource minister of Bangladesh has reportedly said that its government had protested to India but had so far not had any response. From this arises the challenge to organise water related administrations so that river basin becomes the focus of activity and the various (competing) water use sectors have an appropriate voice. Evidently, so far out of innumerable conflicts that have taken place over water, many have been over quantity and infrastructure. Unfortunately, due to inadequacy of data, many plans for river basin development in developing countries are inflexible and rarely provide alternative strategies. And although more than 300 treaties have been signed by countries to deal with specific concerns about international water resources and more than 2000 treaties have provisions related to water, countries have not devoted funding to manage surface and sub-surface water jointly, scientific data are not freely shared and the requisite spirit of cooperation is often lacking. The results are economic losses in downstream countries that are greater than the potential benefits to countries upstream, further environmental degradation and continued conflict. It becomes necessary then to examine whether the interlinking project would end up intensifying the already embittered inter, intra and transboundary conflict over water sharing and availability.

Every dam-river project has been planned at the topmost levels of Government, and the track record concerning re-location, resettlement and compensation, let alone rehabilitation or allotment of land-for-land shows rank corruption, callousness and inefficiency. Since Independence, projects have displaced about 50 million people (many more than once) who now inhabit the slums of towns and cities. Social tension can be traced to people who were victims of unthinking state policy according to
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this pattern of development that benefits some at the cost of others. Struggles in the Narmada Valley and on other projects pushed due to political expediency without complete appraisal, have brought out the seriousness of large scale displacement as well as impacts on and injustice to the proposed beneficiaries. Basic questions demand investigation. Will such a linking of rivers actually prevent drought? Or merely transfer drought? What will be the extent of displacement, and provisions for rehabilitation? Canals also displace. In the Sardar Sarovar project, 1,50,000 landholders stand to lose land due to the canal network, of whom 23,500 will lose more than 25% of their land, and 2,000 will become landless. None is considered project-affected nor eligible for rehabilitation. Therefore we see the destruction of cultures, communities, and ecosystems, creating conflicts between states, as in Cauvery, and between state and people, as in Narmada. Conflicts are dealt with more politically than scientifically. If this happens in just one river basin, imagine the consequences across several river basins. Interstate disputes could take decades to resolve. The canals, designed for carrying irrigation waters rather than large peak flows, will not be sufficient to control or divert floods in the northern states but will transfer silt. Several large dams built to provide the head and storage required to supply the canals will permanently submerge fertile lands, forests, village communities and towns, leaving millions of people displaced or dispossessed. Any attempt to obtain full information, question impacts and demand just compensation requires sacrifice by communities living on the natural resources. Interlinking Himalayan and peninsular rivers is budgeted at Rs. 5.6 lakh crores, even before the completion of feasibility studies, expected by 2008, at a cost of 150 crores. Have alternatives been assessed? When pending water projects require Rs. 80,000 crores to be completed and made usable as per Parliamentary Committee report, is such a plan viable, scientific, or democratic? There is no time, space, or process indicated for participation of communities whose riparian rights must be considered, and who face upstream impacts, which are now known, and lesser-known downstream impacts. Annual Irrigation budgets of state governments are about 1000 crores each. 38
Water & Democracy in South Asia

From where will the money for inter-linking rivers come even if states pool resources for the next several decades? At the cost of local irrigation projects of the true and tested kind that have kept India self-sufficient. In this esoteric experiment of Inter-linking rivers, India itself is the guinea pig.

Benefits of Interlinking of Rivers Project Remain Unclear

The proposed interlinking of rivers does not give any guarantee for providing security of domestic water supplies to the drier areas of India, in particular, the dry uplands. The only dependable solution to this problem lies in local level harvesting and conservation of rainfall. The projections of water requirements for irrigation till 2050 are exclusively based on an unpublished work. These are not in agreement with many significant published works and field surveys. Moreover, the improvement in the end-use efficiency in the presently attained irrigation potential and quicker attainment of the yield levels that have already been reached in the experimental farms will be good enough for ensuring food security. For providing domestic water security in very dry areas and to the large metropolis, inter basin transfers should be resorted to. That needs to be based on an approach, very different from the present one of the NWDA, dominated by objectives of physical expansion of irrigation, needed or otherwise. Hydraulic equity at the national level does not mean undertaking projects for transfer of water at public expense, from better water endowed river basins to the dry areas for inefficient and commercial uses through socially and economically wasteful projects, not approved through open professional assessments. In nature what is linked are not rivers but water itself, through the hydrological cycle. A balanced water cycle demands a holistic policy that promotes forest cover, prevents erosion, enhances ground water through micro-watershed structures, and provides for desiltation and maintenance of existing tanks, lakes and reservoirs. Agricultural practices and public distribution system should be in tune with the diversity of diets based on local conditions rather than on water intensive monocultures.

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Year 1873 1879 1954 1956 1965 1974 1975 Annexure A1: Relevant Indian Water Laws in Chronological Order The Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873 The Bombay Irrigation Act, 1879 The Rajasthan Irrigation and Drainage Act, 1954 Inter State Water Disputes Act, 1956 River Board Acts, 1956 Karnataka Irrigation Act, 1965 Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 The Kumaon and Gharwal Water (Collection, Retention and Distribution) Act, 1975 The Uttar Pradesh Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 1975 1977 1987 1993 1997 The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution ) Cess Act, 1977 Madras Metropolitan Area Ground Water (Regulation) Act, 1987 The Maharashtra Groundwater (Regulation for Drinking Water Purposes) Act, 1993 National Water Policy, 1997 Andhra Pradesh Farmers Management of Irrigation Systems Act, 1997 Andhra Pradesh Water Resources Development Corporation Act, 1997 Bihar Irrigation Act, 1997 1998 1999 Delhi Jal Board Act, 1998 Madhya Pradesh Sinchai Prabandhan Me Krishakon Ki Bhagidari Adhiniyam,1999 (Farmers' Participation in Irrigation Management Act, 1999) The Karnataka Ground Water (Regulation for Protection of Sources of Drinking Water) Act, 1999 Rajasthan State Water Policy, 1999 Uttar Pradesh State Water Policy, 1999 2000 The Rajasthan Farmers' Participation In Management Of Irrigation Systems Act, 2000 The Tamil Nadu Farmers Management Of Irrigation Systems Act, 2000 The Karnataka Irrigation and Certain Other Law (Amendment) Act, 2000


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Karnataka State Water Policy, 2002 National Water Policy, 2002 Guidelines on Swajaldhara 2002 The Orissa Pani Panchayat Act, 2002 Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act, 2002 The Goa Ground Water Regulation Act, 2002 The Kerala Ground Water (Control and Regulation) Act, 2002 The Orissa Pani Panchayat Act, 2002


The Kerala Irrigation And Water Conservation Act, 2003 Delhi Water and Waste Water Reforms Bill, 2003 Madhya Pradesh State Water Policy, 2003 Maharashtra State Water Policy, 2003 The Tamil Nadu Groundwater (Development and Management) Act, 2003 Karnataka Ground Water (Protection and Regulation for Drinking Water) Act, 2003 Himachal Pradesh State Water Policy (draft), 2003 The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution ) Cess (Amendment) Act, 2003


Model Bill to Regulate and Control the Development and Management of Ground Water, 2005 Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 The Himachal Pradesh Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2005 Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by the Farmers Act, 2005 Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005 The West Bengal Ground Water Resources (Management, Control And Regulation) Act, 2005 Water Quality Monitoring Order 2005,Notification,dated 17 June,2005

2006 2007

The Arunachal Pradesh Water Resources Management Authority Bill, 2006 Orissa State Water Policy, 2007 Assam State Water Policy (draft), 2007

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Annexure A2: Relevant Nepali Water Laws in Chronological Order

Year Act or Regulation Areas Addressed 1955 Essential Commodity Protection Act 1955 Deems water an essential commodity and
(2012 BS) strictly protects drinking water Sets out the order of priority of use of water for irrigation and regulates traditional farmer managed irrigation systems waste

1963 Muluki Ain 1963 (2020 BS)

1987 Solid Waste (Management and Resources Deals with pollution of water by solid
Mobilization) Centre Act 1987 (2044 BS)


Deals with the collection, transportation Solid Waste (Management and Resource and disposal of solid waste and provision Mobilization) Regulation 1989 (2046 BS) of toilets and bath houses (2046 BS) Amended in January 2007 Corporation responsible for the supply of drinking water Umbrella Act governing water resource management Governs the use of water for hydropower production Requires permission for extension and diversification of environmentally sensitive industries Umbrella regulation governing water of water user associations

1992 Nepal Water Supply Corporation Act 1989 Establishes the Nepal Water Supply

Water Resource Act 1992 (2049 BS) Electricity Act 1992 (2049 BS) Industrial Enterprises Act 1992 (2049 BS)

1993 Water Resource Regulation 1993 (2050 BS) resource management; outlines formation
Electricity Regulation Act 1993 (2050 BS) Sets out powers, functions, and duties of license holders pollution

1996 Environment Protection Act 1996 (2053 BS) Deals with the prevention and control of 1997 Environment Protection Act 1997 (2054 BS) Lists the water related projects required to
conduct and EIA or IEE

1998 Drinking Water Regulation 1998 (2055 BS) Regulates the use of drinking water Establishes a decentralized governance 1999

Local Self Governance Act 1999 (2056 BS) structure and establishes the procedure for the formulation of water related plan and project implementation 2000 Irrigation Regulation Act 2000 (2056 BS) Deals with Irrigation Water User Associations Rural Water Supply and Sanitation 2004 National Policy 2004 (2060 BS) Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy 2004 (2060 BS) Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sectoral Strategic Action Plan 2004 (2060 BS)
Source: Adapted from 'Water Laws in Nepal', WaterAid Nepal, February 2005


Water & Democracy in South Asia

Annexure A3: Relevant Water Laws in Bangladesh in Chronological Order

Year 1952 1972 1983 Act or Regulation Embankment and Drainage Act 1952 Bangladesh Water and Power Development Boards Order 1972 Irrigation Water Rate Ordinance 1983 Local Government Ordinance 1983 1985 1992 Groundwater Management Ordinance 1985 Water Resources Planning Act 1992 National Environment Policy 1992 1995 1996 Environment Conservation Act 1995 Water Supply and Sewerage Authority Act 1996 Water and Sanitation Authority Act 1996 National Energy Policy 1996 1997 1998 Environment Conservation Rules 1997 National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation 1998 Upzila Parishad Act 1998 National Fisheries Policy 1998 1999 Environment Court Act 1999 Industrial Policy 1999 2000 2001 Bangladesh Water Development Board Act 2000 Urban Water Body Protection Law

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Annexure A4: Relevant Water Laws in Pakistan in Chronological Order

1873 1879 1910 1958 1964 1965

Act or Regulation
Canal and Drainage Act 1873 Sindh Irrigation Act 1879 Electricity Act 1910 Water and Power Development Authority Act 1958 West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority Act 1958 West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 1964 Electricity Control Ordinance 1965 West Pakistan Land and Water and Power Development Board (Reclamation Fee) Rules 1965

1966 1967 1972 1976 1978 1981 1982 1984 1991 1992 1994 1995 1996 1997 1999 2002

West Pakistan Land and Water and Power Development Board (Authority for Payment from Board Fund) Rules 1966 West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (Amendment) Act 1967 Sindh Canal Water Flat Rate Rules 1972 Sindh Irrigation (Amendment) Act 1976 Territorial Water and Maritime Zones Act 1976 Groundwater Rights Administration Ordinance 1978 - Balochistan Karachi Water Management Board Ordinance 1981 Sindh Irrigation Water Users Association Ordinance 1982 Sindh Irrigation (Amendment) Ordinance 1984 Sindh Irrigation Water Users Association (Amendment) Ordinance 1984 Canal and Drainage (Extension to Rohri Canal Area) Act 1991 Indus River System Authority Ordinance 1992 Coastal Development Authority Act 1994 Hydel Power Policy 1995 Environment Protection Agency Act 1996 Karachi Water and Sewerage Board Act 1996 Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act 1997 Provincial Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) Act 1997 Sindh Irrigation (Amendment) Ordinance 1999 Water Policy 2002 Water Management Ordinance 2002

National Drinking Water Policy


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The situation in India as regards availability of water is a paradox. The country accounts for 2.45 per cent of the total land area and 4 per cent of the water resources of the world. Nevertheless, water is a scarce national resource with demands on it increasing on account of a growing population of over one billion. Much of the available surface water and ground water, estimated at 1869 billion cubic metre is presently unable to be harnessed for use on account of topographical and other constraints. The World Water Development Report, 2003 indicates that in terms of availability of water, India is at the 133rd position among 180 countries and as regards the quality of the water available, it is 120th among 122 countries. Of the present water usage in India, 92 per cent is devoted to agriculture, around 3 per cent is used by industries and only 5 percent for domestic purposes like drinking water and sanitation. The picture gets complicated by the other constraints. 40 million hectare of land in the country is flood prone and on average, floods affect an area of around 7.5 million hectare per year. One-sixth area of the country is drought prone. Water pollution is a serious problem with 70 per cent of India's surface water resources and an increasing number of its ground water reserves standing contaminated by biological, toxic organic and inorganic pollutants. The National Water Policy advocates a participatory approach to management of water resources and non-conventional methods for utilization of water like artificial recharge of ground water and traditional water conservation practices like rain water harvesting. Precipitation in the form of rain and snowfall provide over 4000 km3 of fresh water to India, most of which returns to the oceans via the many large rivers which flow across the subcontinent. A portion of this water is absorbed by the soil and is stored in underground aquifers. A much smaller percentage is stored in inland water bodies both natural (lakes and ponds) and man-made (tanks and reservoirs). Of the 1869 km3 available as annual surface runoff, only an estimated 1122 km3 can be exploited due to topographic constraints and distribution effects. The calculated per capita water availability (from 1997) is 1967 m3, although this value varies from a low of 360 m3 in the Sabarmati basin to
Water & Democracy in South Asia


16589 m3 in the Brahmaputra and Barak basins (Ministry of Water Resources, 2001). Already, the potential of most river basins is being exploited beyond 50% and several basins are considered to be water scarce.

Demand from the domestic sector has remained low and accounts for only 5% of the annual freshwater withdrawals in India (World Resources Institute, 2000). Domestic water use will increase as the population continues to grow and access to water is improved. Recent data from the World Bank indicates that demand over the next twenty years will double from 25 billion m3 to 52 billion m3. Only 85% of the urban and 79% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water and fewer still have access to adequate sanitation facilities (World Resources Institute, 2000). The central government made a commitment to improve access to water in rural and urban areas in the National Water Policy adopted in 1987. The original goal of providing water to 100% of all citizens of India by 1991 had to be revised and now stands at 90% access to urban and 85% access to rural areas, respectively. Drinking water and sanitation nevertheless remain high priorities on the government agenda. Most urban areas are serviced by a municipal water distribution system. Usually, the municipal water supply originates from local reservoirs or canals, but in some cases water may be imported through inter-basin transfer. Although the major cities in India enjoy access to central water supply systems, these schemes often do not adequately cover the entire urban population and are notoriously inefficient and unreliable. In rural areas, access to water is even more precarious. Over 80% of the rural domestic water comes from groundwater sources since it is more reliable in terms of water quantity and quality. Still, in areas where water is scarce, rural women must travel long distances to wells or streams to fetch water for their daily needs. The Drinking Water and Sanitation Supply sector in both rural and urban areas has also been subject to subsidies and rate structures that have not reflected the true cost of the resource and discouraged conservation.


Water & Democracy in South Asia

Twelve major river systems drain the subcontinent along with a number of smaller rivers and streams. Of these twelve, the Ganges - Brahmaputra and the Indus systems are the most important in terms of water provision and their impact on Indian society. Together, these systems drain almost half of the country and carry more than 40% of the utilisable surface water from their source in the Himalayas to the ocean. Over 70% of India's rivers drain in the Bay of Bengal, mostly as part of the Ganges-Brahmaputra system. The Arabian Sea, on the western side of the country, receives 20% of the total drainage from the Indus system as well as a number of smaller rivers down the western coast. The remaining 10% drains into interior basins and the few natural lakes scattered across the country (Encyclopedia Britannica Online 2000). The flow regime of India's rivers is strongly influenced by the monsoon climate. The advent of the monsoon rains results in an annual peak in streamflow in most rivers and streams across the subcontinent. Rivers with sources in the mountains see an additional peak in streamflow during the spring snowmelt. In many cases, water levels increase dramatically and flooding is common. During the dry season, the streamflow diminishes in most large rivers and even disappears entirely in smaller tributaries and streams. To regulate the flow in these rivers and distribute water more evenly throughout the year, a number of large dams have been built on the principal river systems. However, even these measures have been inadequate to control water availability in the country, especially during the dry season. Agriculture remains central to the Indian economy and it therefore receives the greater share of the annual water allocation. According to the World Resources Institute (2000), 92% of India's utilisable water is devoted to this sector, mostly in the form of irrigation. The necessity of irrigation for agricultural production is great due to the unpredictable nature of the monsoon. In regions completely dependent on rainfed agriculture, a weak monsoon season can result in drought conditions that can lead to reduced yields or even total crop failure. Even dur-

Water & Democracy in South Asia


ing normal monsoon seasons, farmers are usually able to produce only one crop per year and yields are generally much lower than in irrigated areas. Indeed, the productivity of irrigated agriculture per unit of land has been estimated at seven times that of rainfed agriculture (World Bank, 1999). Massive investment in irrigation in the past fifty years has resulted in an expansion of the gross irrigated area from 23 million hectares in 1951 to over 90 million hectares in 1997, and plans exist to continue developing irrigation infrastructure over the coming years (World Bank, 1999). This growth in irrigated area, along with improvements in farming technologies and plant genetics, has been responsible for the incredible growth in crop production over this period. The increase in production has also contributed greatly to the national economy and to India's food security. However, irrigation expansion has also placed greater demands on surface and groundwater resources. Groundwater alone accounts for 39% of the water used in agriculture and surface water use often comes at the expense of other sectors such as the industrial and domestic supply. At the other extreme, flood conditions can be equally devastating to the agricultural sector and requires careful planning in terms of drainage and the construction of flood control structures. Development projects such as dam and canal construction were devised to help mitigate the effect of the monsoon on rivers and seasonal streams. For the most part, they have been successful at reducing the impact of flooding in some areas, although their effectiveness is limited in the face of exceptional rainfall events. Due to its important contribution to the Indian economy, the agricultural sector receives greater attention in terms of financing and subsidies. Not surprisingly, irrigation has been the largest recipient of government funds. Over US$ 9 billion was spent in this area during the Eigth Plan and subsidies to this sector accounted for almost 0.3% of the GDP during the 1994-95 fiscal year (World Bank, 1999).


Water & Democracy in South Asia

Groundwater represents one of the most important water sources in India and accounts for over 400 km3 of the annual utilizable resource in the country. Due to the highly variable nature of the climate, groundwater has become a popular alternative for irrigation and domestic water use across India. Reliance on groundwater resources is particularly strong where dry season surface water levels are low or where wet season flows are too disruptive to be easily tapped. In addition to being accessible, groundwater quality is generally excellent in most areas and presents a relatively safe source of drinking water for Indians in rural and urban centres. The presence and availability of groundwater varies greatly with changes in topography, subsurface geology and the prevailing climate in the region. In some areas, groundwater exists in deep aquifers while in others the water is stored near the surface. The location of the aquifer also affects its recharge rate and its susceptibility to pollution and overuse. In general, the mountainous and hilly regions in the north and west do not allow adequate infiltration and as a consequence, groundwater is mostly limited to valleys and other lower lying areas. In the peninsular part of the country, the underlying geology limits the formation of large continuous aquifers. Groundwater is therefore scattered where fissures permit adequate storage or is found in shallow depressions near the surface. As a result, the overall yield potential in this region is low although some areas may see medium to high potential depending on the local hydrogeology. Coastal regions are usually rich in groundwater owing to the largely alluvial terrain, but the aquifers risk being easily contaminated by saltwater ingress due to overpumping. The alluvial tract of the Gangetic plain, which extends over 2000 km across central and northern India has the best potential for groundwater extraction in the country. This large area possesses many favourable characteristics for groundwater storage and recharge, and the yield over most of the region has been estimated at moderate to high.

Water & Democracy in South Asia



Bangladesh, lies between India and Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal. It is a riverine country in South Asia having an area of about 144,000 km2 located in the lower delta of three large rivers of the world: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. There are many tributaries and distributaries of these rivers and in total 57 rivers pass through the country. These rivers drain a total of 1.72 million sq kms in India, China, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. As a result, huge inflows of water enter the country, over which Bangladesh has no control. The average surface water flow in peakwet season (August) is nearly 112 billion cubic metres and in the dry season (February) is about 3.7 billion cubic metres. During the wet season (June - September), massive river flow in a flat delta topography (which severely limits effective drainages) - further accentuated by high rainfall occurring only in a limited four month period - makes flooding a recurring phenomenon. Water scarcity in the dry season (November - April) is an issue. The country is located at the lowest reach of the alluvial system dominated by the combined delta of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. The country is crisscrossed with numerous streams and tidal creeks, forming an intricate network of waterways that constitute the chief transportation system. Along the southwest coast the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans is a heavily forested swamp area with numerous low lands The population of Bangladesh is about 130 million. The country has a tropical monsoon climate with an average rainfall of about 2.4 meter falling mainly during June-September. The Ganges- BrahmaputraMeghna river system discharges nearly 3.0 million cumecs during the monsoon season, where as this drops to 0.25 - 0.30 million during the winter. The country experiences two opposite scenario from water availability. There is an abundance of water in the monsoon while a shortage in the dry season. The natural environment of the country is mainly dominated by water. There many rivers of the country play a vital role in the socioeconomical and cultural lives of the country. The urban area of the country is about 6.5% of its total area. The urban area was identified as towns and growth centres having the population of 1991 census plus infrastruc50
Water & Democracy in South Asia

ture such as roads, railways, canals and industries. About 21% of the total population live in the urban area. According to the NWMP study, the urban area will be increased to 9% by 2025.

NWMP has stressed that there is no economic justification to go for public surface water irrigation involving large-scale high-lift pumping such as the system in the Ganges Kobadak Project, as demonstrated by its high O&M requirement of nearly Tk4,000 that is substantially higher than the shallow tube-wells. However, surface water irrigation system of the type of the Muhuri and the Chandpur projects where the gravity flow and low left pumps are used can still be justified because of low cost of irrigation from these projects. Similarly irrigation in small-scale project by LGED can be economic because the use of submergible barrier and use of low lift pumps. However, these may still not be suitable for areas where there now exists high potential for shallow tubewells, i.e., areas except northeast, coastal salinity-affected areas, and part of the northwest, southwest, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts where groundwater levels are low. In areas where shallow tubewells are difficult and expensive, minor irrigation schemes involving submersible dams and use of low lift pumps would be advisable. However, the resolution of O&M cost recovery problem is essential to consider the prospects for further expanding the public irrigation schemes.

The Bangladesh Water Development Board has estimated that about 1,200 kilometers of riverbank is actively eroding and more than 500 kilometers face severe problems related to erosion. Since 1973, the Jamuna River has progressively widened, eroding over 70,000 ha of floodplain land while accreting only about 11,000 ha. Expansion is taking place primarily through destruction of floodplain land and creation of short-lived, lowlying char land. Whereas local people may be able to adapt to recurring flooding, they find riverbank erosion and channel instability difficult to cope with. Social impacts include increased impoverishment and landlessness, loss of income generation, reduced security, and social displacement. Efforts to control bank erosion and stabilize floodplain lands have only

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been carried out relatively recently on the major rivers. Contemporary river management strategies oriented towards forecasting future erosion hazards, reducing hazard through non-structural measures such as strategic retirement of infrastructure and re-settlement of affected habitation, and on developing low-cost measures for erosion control. Some pilotscale programs have been attempted recently along the Jamuna River and Meghna Estuary near Haimchar. Among these, ADB has initiated the Jamuna-Meghna River Erosion Mitigation Project to pilot test and establish low-cost erosion mitigation measures using sand-filled geo-textile bags with combination of non-structural measures.

High concentration of arsenic has been observed in groundwater since it was first detected in 1993. Contaminated wells exceeding the Bangladesh standard of 0.05mg/l have been identified in 61 of the country's 64 districts, and in about 30% of the their total number. It has been estimated that the population of 25 million to 36 million are exposed to arsenic health risk of causing skin, liver, and renal deficiencies including cancer. While the number of identified arsenicosis patients has remained about 13,000 in mid 2002, there are a large number of unidentified patients. This number is also anticipated to grow rapidly to a level of a few million in the next decades without effective mitigation measures, given the relatively short period of time elapsed since those contaminated groundwater wells were installed and started to be used by the population so far without any regulatory framework in place. The country's aquifer systems are divided into upper, middle, and deep aquifers. Arsenic is mostly found in wells taking water from the upper and middle aquifers. It is of natural origin, and believed to be released to groundwater under reducing conditions in aquifers from sedimentary materials containing the arsenic in potentially soluble forms that were transported from the Himalayas and other high-lying source areas in the ancient times. Since the late 1990s, many initiatives were launched by the Government, international and national NGOs, research institutions, and external funding agencies. Efforts have been focused on nationwide testing of wells
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and groundwater survey, emergency relief to heavily affected areas and identified patients, and pilot testing of mitigation options. Key initiatives include: (i) groundwater studies (assisted by DFID with nationwide coverage and by JICA in three districts in the Southwest); (ii) Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation and Water Supply Project for national blanket screening of wells, emergency mitigation, pilot testing of remedial measures, health care, and awareness campaign (assisted by World Bank); (iii) Community-based Arsenic Mitigation Project that includes similar activities and has advanced to 45 upazilas (assisted by UNICEF); (iv) Arsenic Mitigation Pilot Project undertaken in 11 upazilas in coastal area (assisted by DANIDA); (v) studies regarding the impacts of arsenic on the food chain (assisted by FAO and by AUSAID), among many others. These have resulted in good progress in testing of wells, identification of highly affected communities, and identification of alternative water supply options. However, progress in providing cost-effective and sustainable mitigating options as well as necessary health services have remained slow, due to the absence of policy, strategy and short, medium, and long term mitigation plans and a number of remaining technical, social, financial, and institutional constraints and knowledge gaps. The Government has also strengthened its efforts to address the arsenic problems in a holistic manner, and established a high level Secretaries Committee, which is supported by a National Committee of Experts to advise on technical issues. An Arsenic Policy Support Unit (APSU) has also been created in the Local Government Division and placed under the Secretaries Committee with DFID support to coordinate between the concerned ministries, and between the Government and the donors. Under this improved institutional setup, the Government is now preparing a National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation (NPAM) and Implementation Plan for Arsenic Mitigation (IPAM) for its finalization in the near future. It is expected that these policy and strategy documents will provide guidance in undertaking arsenic mitigation activities.

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[Source: Adb Nov 2003]

1956 UN Technical Mission (Krug Mission) resulted in the creation of the then East Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority. 1963 Hardin and Thijsse Missions examined the flood problems. 1964 Master Plan focused predominantly on flood control for agriculture and included a portfolio of 58 large projects including 3 barrages on major rivers. Some of the big projects were implemented by mid-1980s. 1972 World Bank Study on land and water sector emphasized integrated development of land and water resources with special focus on small scale (minor) irrigation. In this program, planning at the level of thana (now called upazila) and implementation of water resource management project were implemented. During this period, private sector irrigation using shallow tube-wells saw major expansion. 1980s National Water Plan commenced with work objective to consolidate existing information base, rationalize ongoing and planned activities and to guide future investment in the future. Master Plan Organization under the Ministry of Water Resources completed the first phase of work in 1986. Phase II started in 1987 developed planning models, recommended strategies and programmes, presented a draft water law, and proposed means to institutionalize the process of long-term water management and planning. Late 1980s - post floods of 1987 & 1988 - Flood Action Plan based on a series of studies supported by UNDP, France, USA, China and Japan. The World Bank coordinated the activities of these donors to prepare a Flood Action Plan consisting of 26 studies and pilot projects. The FAP also produced guidelines for people's participation in water sector investments and guidelines for undertaking environmental assessments.


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1995 Post Flood Action Plan was prepared with the assistance of the World Bank producing the first long-term strategy for the water sector called the Bangladesh Water and Flood Management Strategy (BWFMS). The strategy envisaged the formulation of a National Water Policy (NWP) to provide guidelines for managing the water resources of the country in a comprehensive, integrated and equitable manner. It also envisaged the preparation of a National Water Management Plan (NWMP) that would include national, regional and basic programs with overall assessment of water supply and demand in the country. The Govt. acted promptly to implement BWFMS and strengthened the WARPO and gave it a new mandate and task of formulating NWMP. Late 1990s Reforms included the milestone of adopting the NWP in 1999. It defined major institutional reform and the role of the government (including the decentralization and transfer of water resources management schemes), the private sector and the civil society in the management of water.[for details see below in policies section] The institutional reforms currently on the agenda are grounded on the principles of the NWP and to some extent, reflect the past studies related to organizational strengthening of BWDB. These are promoted mainly under projects assisted by the World Bank, in particular in the context of preparing the Water Management Improvement Project, as well as the Twining Mission arrangements assisted by the Government of the Netherlands, and policy dialogues and capacity development support provided under the ongoing projects assisted by ADB. In particular, to work with the Twining Mission, BWDB formed a task force comprising senior and mid-level staff organized into five working groups (covering implementation of BWDB Act 2000; BWDB 5-year plan; procurement and financial management; human resources development, and services and revenue) to develop action plans for these five working areas. Institutional Structure: In accordance with the BWDB Act 2000, the BWDB management has been separated from the Governing Council.17 Accordingly, the role of BWDB was modified to separate the policy and operational management, vesting many of the power formerly exercised
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by the Government to the new Governing Council, with an intention to make way for increased autonomy of BWDB from Government's closer supervision and oversight. As a result of the reform, the BWDB management has increased authority in deciding on operational matters, and the Director General is taking decisions, which used to be referred to the Board and the Government routinely before. The DG has also been assigned with threeyear fixed assignment to strengthen the management leadership. As to the management structure, central implementation wing and O&M wing were merged into two regional O&M wings in 2002 to ensure staff integrity and smooth transition of schemes from investment to O&M phase. As a move towards decentralization, while the Governing Council meeting in late 2000 agreed in principle to separate zonal units as fully autonomous entities and to pilot test the concept in one zone, this has yet to be initiated. The Government has also decided to de-link the Mechanical Engineering and Dredger Organizations. Staffing and Skill Mix: In 1998 the Government started implementation of a plan to downsize BWDB from 18,032 to 8,860 by 2006 through a natural attrition process. This has been implemented with the current staff as of 2002 standing at about 12,300, of whom about 2,000 belong to the Mechanical Engineering and Dredger Organizations, although nonrecruitment of new staff has started to affect the staff cohort management. BWDB has also taken some steps to diversify its skill mix, by creating positions for a sociologist, and fishery, forestry, and environmental experts, and expansion of managerial positions for non-engineers, which was done in 2001. BWDB is also to prepare Policy and Service Rules for Recruitment, Promotion, and Job Rotation to ensure strategic skills development, and continuity in field operation through fixed tenure assignments and on-site promotion. While these are all positive moves, there is significant gap between the existing and required capacities in establishing and operating water resources schemes with effective beneficiary participation through management transfer or joint management as envisaged under the NWP, which requires significant skills, willingness and dedication within the organization as a whole including engineers to support the development of and work with the local institutions as an accountable service provider. 56
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Operational Procedures and Arrangements: In 2001, BWDB formulated the job description for all professional personnel from Assistant Engineer through the DG thereby established a chain of command, individual responsibility and accountability. Towards the end of 2001, BWDB also reformulated its delegation of administrative and financial power, and detailed rule of business. BWDB is further pursuing procurement reforms under the ongoing Bangladesh Public Procurement Project assisted by the World Bank, has revised the standard bidding documents and is encouraged to publish contract awards and establish independent audit system. While these are aimed to strengthen the transparency and accountability of BWDB, the extent to which the changes lead to more effective and efficient delivery of services will depend on (i) strong leadership to ensure staff compliance with the established rules and procedures; (ii) ownership of BWDB staff to fully operate these initiatives, and (iii) establishment of effective management information and quality control systems to supervise and enforce their effective operation without any leakage. Budget and Financial Management: Assistance from Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is being provided to improve the accounting systems of BWDB as well as WARPO (by establishing separate accounting functions in the field offices). While this rationalizes the manner in which accounts are maintained and improves transparency, it has not necessarily addressed the manner in which budget are allocated and utilized, which is a policy matter. In this connection, the Government agreed, in the context of the recently approved Jamuna-Meghna River Erosion Mitigation Project, to consider adopting a performance-based budget allocation mechanism, which will prioritize the allocation of O&M budgets on the basis of the performance of the project entities (e.g., on the basis of the irrigation service fee collection and local resource mobilization for self-sustained O&M), for which specific policy will be developed. To improve the irrigation service fee collection, BWDB is also preparing the amendment to the 1983 BWDB Water Rate Ordinance to authorize the project entities to collect, retain, and utilize the service charges in accordance with the 2000 BWDB Act. While these efforts, if fully implemented, will contribute to improving the O&M sustainability of public surface irrigation schemes (subject to the clear commitment on
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the part of the Government to pursue the issue in irrigation schemes), O&M sustainability of FCD schemes has not been addressed in the reform process so far. Water Management Associations: According to the Government's Guidelines for Participatory Water Management (GPWM), which was approved by the NWRC in November 2000, it is suggested that WMAs should be registered under the Cooperatives Societies Ordinance and Rules until such time that the separate rules for registration would be established based on the experience of cooperatives framework. Following the guidelines, a large number of WMAs have been established under several water sector projects implemented by BWDB and LGED. The available experience has indicated that, while the cooperatives framework is advantageous given the ready availability of essential regulatory services provided by the Department of Cooperatives as well as of its facility to expand the scope of WMAs to undertake diverse economic activities, these may also divert the attention of the stakeholders from the core activities of water management. Careful assessment of the initial experience and alternative options is necessary to define most appropriate legal framework of WMAs. O&M: To augment resources for O&M, it was always felt that a part of the burden could be borne by the beneficiaries. But the failure to involve beneficiaries in the early stages of projects has not helped the case, because there is no sense of ownership a situation made worse by the rise of disbenefits (e.g. drainage congestion in some areas) from some schemes. Lack of sense of ownership by beneficiaries makes it difficult to share with them the burden of operation and maintenance. To ensure better O&M of water project, NWP provides for handing over selected water management to stakeholders. Table 6 records what is ultimately envisaged for the completed BWDB projects. The ultimate arrangements (according to NWP) envisages transfer of ownership of the small schemes (those below 1,000 ha) to local government and management to WMAs, transfer of management of schemes between 1,000 ha and 5,000 ha to WMAs, with ownership remaining with BWDB. Finally transfer of management of schemes over 5,000 ha to a joint team consisting of WMAs and Local Government with ownership remaining with
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BWDB. Unfortunately there has been no progress in implementing this policy since its adoption in 1999. Ultimate Arrangement for management of Water Sector Schemes
Projects Scheme size Upto 1000 hectares 1000-5000 hectares 5000-15000 hectares No of BWDB Area covered projects/schemes (hectares) 104 40127 Management Responsibility WMAs Ownership Local Government BWDB






Joint management by BWDB with stakeholders Same as above


More than 15000 hectares TOTAL

82 544

4181118 5998410



Geographically located between India and China Total population: 23.15 million in 2001 (CBS, 2001) with the annual growth rate of 2.25% More than 6,000 rivers and rivulets Majors river systems:Saptakoshi, Narayani (Gandaki), Karnaliand Mahakali. Existing Water Use Scenario: 72 %of the population has access to basic water supply and 25%of the population has sanitation facility. 603 MW is the installed capacity of hydroelectricity (app. 1.4%of the techno-economically viable capacity) Of 2.64 million hectares of cultivable land, 0.764 million ha is irrigated, but only 0.50 million (app. 18.5%) ha of land had roundthe year irrigation.

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Population: 141 Million Geographical Area: 796,100 Km2 Irrigated Area: 36 Million Acres (14.5 Mha) Annual Water Availability (At Rim Stations; Post Tarbela): 143 Maf (175 Bcm) Annual Canal Withdrawals: 104 Maf (128 Bcm) Ground Water Pumpage: 42 Maf (50 Bcm) Per Capita Water Available (2003): 1200 Cubic Metre Agriculture Product: 25 % Of Gdp Total Power Generation (Installed Capacity): 17,942 Mw Hydropower Generation (Installed Capacity) : 5,039 Mw Pakistan lies in an arid and semi-arid climate zone. Rainfall in Pakistan is markedly variable in magnitude, time of occurrence and its aerial distribution. Water availability per capita in the country was more than 5,000 cubic meters in early 50s and is around 1,300 cubic meters per person presently. With rapidly growing population and non-judicious use of water, per capita water availability is bound to decrease further in coming years. Projections of population growth together with increasing and competing water needs indicate further reduction in per capita water availability necessitating water conservation measures. The average annual flow-rates of major rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Kabul) have shown a major decline from 189 Million Acre Feet (MAF) in 1961 to approximately 93 MAF in 2001-02. There has been little thrust on conserving water. Large quantities of municipal water are used for nonpotable uses, while treatment of wastewater and its re-use continue to be neglected. As per projections the country's population will exceed 200 million after 2020; urban-rural ration will drastically change during the period as well and become equal by 2025. Considering the present status of meager civic facilities to urban population, it is very likely that pressure on already 60
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shrinking water sources will also increase manifold in terms of quantity and quality. Present estimates show that in all major cities the per-capita water availability falls short of the minimum requirement. Inter-sectoral water competition such as between agriculture, domestic and industrial requirements is also likely to grow. It is estimated that domestic and industrial water uses would grow to around 15 per cent of the available water resources as against the present 3 per cent.


There are five major hydropower generation projects in Pakistan: namely, Tarbela, Mangla, Warsak and Chashma and Ghazi Barotha which have a capacity of 3478, 1000, 240, 187 and 1450 MW respectively. There are also several smaller hydel schemes whose combined capacity is about 108 MW. In 2006, the Pakistani government published an energy report, 'Policy for the Development of Renewable Energy for Power Generation 2006'. The report proposes mainstreaming renewable energy in Pakistan by incorporating small hydropower, wind and solar technologies into development plans. In 2001, the Water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan identified 22 sites for launching hydropower projects to meet the ever-increasing demand for cheap power. It indicated that about 15,074 megawatts could be generated on the completion of these projects, which would also meet the water irrigation requirements for the growing agriculture sector.

REFERENCES: Links to studies and reports refered in this study are available in the publications section at

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Power Station Installed Units Generation Generated Capacity MW GWh 3478.0 1000.0 240 187 19.6 20 22 13.5 13.2 13.8 4 1.1 1 5013.2 12826.5 2800.0 917.52 254.34 111.38 113.42 32.8 42.67 22.88 33.66 11 3.61 4.61 17194.4 Overall Cost of Generation Ps/KWh 21.73 12.01 24.15 16.73 6.71 36.91 22.12 40.71 35.95 58 99.39 101.39 19.95 Utilisation Factor %

Tarbela Mangla Warsak Chasma Malakand Dangai Rasul Shadiwal Chichoki Malian Nandipur Kurram Garhi Renala Chitral TOTAL

41.98 31.88 43.52 64.65 75.95 16.97 35.98 19.73 22.77 31.31 37.37 52.44

Hydropower: way out of energy crisis, Arshad H Abbasi

The single renewable energy resource that Pakistan possesses in abundance is hydropower, the most environmental friendly, cheapest source of energy. It has a potential of more than 41,722MW. Despite this, Pakistan now is faced with a most serious energy shortfall. The acute shortage of electricity has resulted in loadshedding during the current summer season, costing the economy millions of rupees. The installed power generation capacity at the end of 2005 was19,560MW, of which 65 per cent was thermal, 33 per cent was hydroelectric and 2.4 per cent was nuclear. The 33 per cent share of hydroelectric power amounts to only 6,595MW. We should not forget the fact that the projected lifetime of the existing natural gas and oil is just over 15 and nine years respectively. Domestic coal reserves may be exploited only at great financial and environmental costs. Seventy per cent of Pakistan's oil needs are met through imports. The average cost of hydel energy generation in Pakistan was Rs0.50 per kilowatt hour in 2000-01. The annual per 62
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capita electricity consumption in Pakistan is around 320kwh, and this only caters for 60 per cent of the population. Forty per cent of Pakistanis still have no access to electricity. In view of these facts, the best solution to Pakistan's energy/electricity crisis is hydropower. An abundant, cheap, environmental friendly and renewable source of energy has remained untapped. To meet Pakistan's power requirement, WAPDA and the Ministry of Water and Power developed a strategy called the Hydropower Development Vision-2025 in the year 2001. The strategy was based on an average annual demand increase of 3.7 per cent. Recently though the demand for electricity rose sharply, in excess of eight per cent per annum during the last two years. In Vision-2025 a short-term plan was developed and the commissioning date of eight hydel projects with a total generation capacity of 716MW was fixed on June 2006. These projects were proposed and designed as 'run-of-river' plants, meaning one with little or no storage capacity, such as Ghazi Barotha hydropower project, in which no big reservoir is to be constructed. But unfortunately none of these projects could be completed. Another cause of the present energy crisis is that the federal government has not taken small hydropower projects (SHPs) in its own hands. Such projects are very viable as they do not require building of large dams and do not pose problems of deforestation, submergence or rehabilitation. Comparatively small capital investment and short gestation periods are required to complete these projects and they cause minimal transmission losses occur compared to WAPDA's current line losses, which are more the 25 per cent. In Pakistan all small hydropower projects up to 50MW are the responsibility of the provincial governments which cannot construct small hydropower projects due to financial constrains, among other reasons. In India, developing small hydro projects at a fast pace is one of the components of their energy policy. The central government there has completed 90 small hydro projects with 270MW capacity in the past five years. The state of affairs in Pakistan should change. Punjab has enough financial resources but it has made no real progress on small hydropower plants
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even though WAPDA has not only identified various locations having a potential of 350MW but also completed the necessary design works. In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which is endowed with abundant hydel potential, the AJK Hydroelectric Board has only completed hydro projects having a capacity of 36MW against an identified potential of 5,329MW. This hydrogenation cannot even meet the electric demand of AJK itself, which is 250MW; while the anticipated power demand by 2007 will be 350MW. The AJK Hydroelectric Board is facing serious financial problem in starting the projects as funding is not available. International donor agencies are reluctant. In the Indian-held Kashmir, recently twenty small hydro projects were commissioned at various selected sites by the UNDP. Baglihar and Kishan Ganga hydropower projects are in the stage of completion. The biggest problem is faced by the Northern Areas where the electricity demand is more then 100MW but total power generation from hydel power stations is a mere 46MW. To bridge the gap between demand and supply a diesel power plant with a total generation of 5MW has been commissioned by the government. Instead of tapping ingenious hydropower potential, the Ministry of Water and Power has decided to construct a 765-kv transmission line that is 794-km-long, to import 1000MW from Tajikistan via Afghanistan at a much higher rate. For self-reliance in energy and for eradicating poverty, hydropower is recognised as a renewable source which is economical, non-polluting and environmentally benign. In order to maintain a balance between hydropower and thermal power, the ministry should announce a policy to accelerate hydropower generation in the country. Development of small hydro projects at an accelerated pace should be one of the tasks set by the policy to meet the present power crisis. This is the only cost-effective solution to meet the increasing electricity demand.

Groundwater has been at the heart of the green revolution in agriculture across many Asian nations, and has permitted cultivation of high value crops. For example, the Indus basin irrigation system of Pakistan, with more than 16 million hectares of contiguous irrigated area, is one of the 64
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largest irrigation systems of the world, is considered as one of the biggest consumer of groundwater, and its use is still increasing. Most of the groundwater resources of Pakistan are contained by the alluvial aquifer system of the Indus plains and relatively small resources are contained in the valley alluvial deposits and the consolidated rocks of the mountain zone further away from the Indus river system (the remainder). The Indus basin was formed by alluvial deposits carried by the Indus river and its tributaries from the foothills of Himalayas to the Arabian sea. The Indus river system is underlain by highly permeable unconfined aquifers made of alluvial sand. The groundwater quality, in terms of salinity, is generally fresh in the areas along the rivers and is brackish/saline in the central part of the doabs i.e. the land areas between two rivers (Figure 1). Before the introduction of surface irrigation systems, the groundwater table was about 30 meter deep in Punjab Province and about 12-15 meter in Sindh province. The only sources of groundwater recharge were rivers, seasonal floods and rainfall, and a steady natural hydrological balance was maintained between the rivers and the groundwater table. However, massive and widespread surface water irrigation development in 19th and 20th century altered the natural hydrological balance due to increased recharge from earthen canals and irrigated fields. Over the years, persistent seepage from this huge gravity flow system gradually increased the groundwater table. By the middle of last century, at some locations, the groundwater table rose to the ground surface or very close to root zone causing water logging and secondary salinity, which badly hampered the agricultural productivity. While describing these negative impacts of irrigation development in Indus, it is often neglected in scientific literature that this was the period when massive freshwater recharge and storage occurred in the highly permeable unconfined aquifer of Indus basin system. Only during the last 30-40 years, has this underground stored water been extracted and used for meeting crop water needs of the increasingly intensified agriculture which is one of the main pillars of the overall economy in Pakistan. To combat this twin menace of water logging and secondary salinization, the Government of Pakistan launched the Salinity Control and
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Reclamation Projects (SCARPs) in the 1960's. Under this program, a number of large-capacity public wells (with pump capacity of 0.084 to 0.14 m3 sec-1) were installed to control water logging and provide supplementary irrigation supplies. Thereafter, in the 1970's, the Government of Pakistan encouraged the installation of private wells for irrigation, which has gradually increased the groundwater share in the total irrigation water extraction. Presently, the greatest proportion of groundwater supplies comes from about 0.6 million small-capacity (0.028 m3 sec-1 or less) private tube-wells, which was minimal in the initial stages of the development of this resource. Reliability of timing and supply, and better control over volumes of water applied, relative to surface water, are just few of the many reasons why farmers have adopted groundwater irrigation on a massive scale. The rapid development of tube-wells is a clear indication of the current level of high dependency of farmers on groundwater irrigation. According to a recent estimate, over 500,000 tube-wells exist in Pakistan, which contribute approx. 35% of total water available for agriculture (World Bank, 1997). This has resulted in uneven changes in the groundwater table location across the Indus basin. In most of the fresh groundwater areas, a fall in groundwater table is observed. As a result, the issue of water logging is now not very prominent in most of the upper part of the Indus basin (Punjab Province) while it is still prevailing in the lower part of the basin (Sindh Province). Currently, overexploitation of fresh groundwater resources, secondary salinization of lands due to increasing use of marginal/hazardous quality groundwater and deterioration of groundwater quality are emerging issues, which need to be better managed. The major causes of quality deterioration are the intrusion of saline water into freshwater areas due to over-pumping from the fresh lenses of groundwater underlain/surrounded by saline water and the pollution from agricultural chemicals, industrial and municipal wastes. The sustainable use of groundwater is a key to continued success of irrigated agriculture in the country. There is a need to review the existing pattern of groundwater development, governing policies and institutions, regulatory frameworks and governance structure and thereby move to a more sustainable management of this vital source of water.


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As in many other countries, agricultural groundwater use in Pakistan has expanded dramatically over the past few decades. This expansion has caused a change in the major issues in, and need for, groundwater governance. There are currently three sets of groundwater management challenges in Pakistan: 1) control via groundwater pumping of waterlogging, 2) maintaining water quality, especially as related to salinity, and 3) control of overdraft in some regions. Formal governance of groundwater is technically under the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and the Provincial Irrigation and Power Departments. These organizations, in particular WAPDA, have primarily focused on the development of groundwater resources through the construction of wells or through direct or indirect subsidies to private farmer. Key aspects of their mandates with respect to groundwater governance have generally not been implemented. In fact, groundwater governance in Pakistan, to the extent it has existed at all, has primarily been related to development and subsidy policies of central and provincial governments. Local government bodies and farmer organizations are weak in Pakistan and the involvement of theses institutions in regulating groundwater use is minimal. Nationwide there are essentially no controls on groundwater use nor mechanisms to establish user rights or regulations. That said, one area in which the government has been actively involved in management of groundwater, if not "governance" per se, has been in the control of waterlogging and salinization. The water logging problem in Pakistan is caused primarily by poor drainage in surface irrigation systems. While the problem has long existed, it increased substantially by the mid-1960s. In response, the government introduced the Salinity Control and Reclamation Project (SCARP). One aspect of this program was the sinking of government owned tube wells to pump groundwater both for irrigation purposes and to lower the water table. While in many ways successful, because of problems with government operation, these tube wells have now been largely privatized with the exception of those in some highly saline areas. With this privatization, direct government involvement in groundwater management has essentially ended.

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Bolivia is knocking at our doors. The forces of free profit making are working overtime to privatise water in India as well. A lot of ground has been already covered. The experts are convinced, bureaucrats are co-opted, and statesmen are lured to fall in line. 'Full Cost Recovery' is the new Mantra with which everyone seems to be on-line. The echoes of this sacred rhyme are descending from every conceivable direction. The UNDP- World Bank symphony is orchestrating for a long time that the "people are willing to pay for regular and quality water service but the governments are not willing to charge". The World Commission on Water in its latest choreography called Water Vision expresses "that the single most immediate and important measure that we can recommend is the systematic adoption of full-cost pricing for water services". The Water Vision visualises the validity of this Mantra on two counts - first, it is the only way people can be made to realise the value; second, it will create conditions to attract 'private investment' ih water services. A recently carried out jugalbandi by Government of India and World Bank involving all their triumphant drum-beaters came out with same rhythm. The reports of this joint exercise ;ire just out for sale and a cursory glance at them suggests that the Government of India seems to have agreed to shed the old habit(s) of not charging in the new millennium. In tune with the ongoing Raga, the reports of the GoI- WB jugalbandi have been published by a private publisher (Allied Publishers) and are available at a cost of around Rs. 250/ each. These reports are "Initiating and Sustaining Water Sector Reforms :A Synthesis"; "Inter-Sectoral Water Allocation, Planning and Management"; "Ground Water Regulation and Management"; "The Irrigation Sector"; "Rural Water Supply and Sanitation" and "Urban Water Supply and Sanitation". Apart from repeated calls for 'full cost recovery', in the entire exercise the emphasis seems to be on creation of (a) water market and (b) property rights in water.


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These three factors put together create the conditions conducive for private sectors' involvement. The report on "Ground Water Regulation and Management" claims that "large regulated water markets essential for reallocating increasingly scarce ground water and surface water supplies to high-priority uses, have yet to develop. In the absence of a functioning water rights system and institutional framework for management, water sales would occur with little consideration for third party and environmental impacts or resource sustainability....Expanding the role of markets into a formal mechanism for water allocation necessitates a reform of water rights framework, and the development of effective management institutions. Practical approaches to both these aspects represent the major challenge facing the development of markets." For Urban Water Supply and Sanitation (UWSS), the report prescribes following five changes: devolution of responsibilities to municipal authorities, along with ensuring key good practices such as accounting separation, long term plans and customer consultation, are mandated by law; reform of the state utility boards by separating the policy and regulatory functions from operations, desegregation of operations into functional areas and commercialisation of desegregated entities; rationalization of tariff structures through necessary legislative changes, and developing a system of incentives and sanctions at state level to encourage reform; reform of the financing systems with a greater market orientation by enabling direct market access for local authorities and enterprises within a market .regulatory framework, and encouraging new form of financial' intermediation, supported by re-orienting the use of public resources for greater leverage; introduction of a comparative competition facility to enable assessment of utility performance. This will be useful both as a management tool and as an accountability mechanism. The report also states that "the second aspect of the strategy is promotion and support to incremental and opportunistic innovations within the framework of systemic changes.
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The type of innovations which need to be supported includes: private sector participation - including service and management contracts, BOT contracts and concessions in selected high potential area; new ways of providing and improving access for disadvantaged groups; and operational changes linked to enhancing the efficiency and financial viability of UWSS entities, especially for reduction of uncounted for water, improving billing and collection efficiency, etc." The report further emphasizes that the "participation of private sector will be essential, both in developing policy (to ensure it is investor friendly), and in initiating the involvement of private finance and management in the sector by working with municipalities and State UWSS providers." The report on Rural Water Supply and Sanitation forthrightly states that "the strategy here calls for full cost recovery of operations and maintenance expenditure, and a gradual move towards recovery of capital and replacement costs. In the long run all costs, including for capital and replacement, will be fully recovered." In its recommendations the report prescribes "increase water charge and bulk water prices to fully recover operation and maintenance costs; improve assessment and collection procedures; and introduce indexing mechanisms to automatically adjust water charges to inflation and cost increase. " The report on irrigation sector prescribes the following road map for privatisation: Step l: Establishment of Water Users Associations (WUAs) at grass roots and Unbundling of Irrigation Department. Step 2: Shift the responsibility of collection of charges to these Associations. Step 3: Encourage WUAs through incentives for recovering Operation and Maintenance costs. Step 4: Substantially increase the Water charges and create conditions for attracting 'private investment' in water schemes. 70
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Step 5: Finally hand over the operation to 'private operator' The alarming fact is that such fundamental changes are being introduced surreptitiously bypassing the forums of public debate. The pressure is being put for implementation of these changes through various instruments and the changes are getting introduced in bits and pieces. Like during last two budget speeches in parliament a scheme named 'National Watershed Movement' was introduced which lays the ground for personalisation of the above recommendations. (Lok Samvad-May 2000, p.15) Similarly, several projects and programmes are going on at various levels with the assistance (credit) from external sources, which are already implementing these recommendations in letter and spirit. Such attempts to commercialise the use of water in all walks of life has far reaching implications on the sociocultural and economic domain of Indian public life. World Bank in its incarnation as the 'scout boy' of global capital had already paved way for making profit in the area of infrastructure, and now is leading the corp of profiteers to make hay even from a 'public utility' like water. The world market for water is estimated to be US$ 800 billion and top MNCs have already thrown their hats in the ring. The wave of 'profit from thirst' is sweeping the globe irrespective of the class of Nations. The US, UK, France, Canada Australia, New Zealand, apart from the helpless economies of Latin America, Africa and Asia,are also transforming their 'utilities' into profit ventures The common people cutting across the territory are resisting this attempt and are coming out on the streets to protest. Are we also ready to join hand: in this struggle to defend our right to water (life} from the onslaught of profiteers? .

(Source: LOK SAMVAD, August 2000 - published by PEACE, New Delhi)

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Water & Democracy in South Asia