Home India News New water policy by 2011, will include climate change impact

New water policy by 2011, will include climate change impact

By Prashant Sood, IANS,

New Delhi : Nine years after the last document, work is on to put in shape a new water policy that will by the end of the year not just lay down a framework for the allocation of water but also take into account the impact of climate change and the remedial steps that need to be taken, an official said.

The National Water Policy, which lays down the framework for the government’s plan of action and covers various aspects like allocation of water, groundwater conservation, rainwater harvesting and interlinking of rivers, was first formulated in 1987. It was reviewed in 2002.

Another review is now under way.

“One immediate factor that hastened review of the National Water Policy 2002 is the issue of climate change. The review will assess the possible impact of climate change on water resources and the remedial steps required,” a senior official of the water resources ministry told IANS.

He said most studies on climate change projected scenarios rather than quantified facts.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a purpose of the policy review was to identify additional data for a study that looked at the likely impact of climate change in quantitative terms.

“It has been noted that the likely impact of climate change will be intensification of extreme events such as increase in peak floods in a particular area and reduction in number of rainy days in some other area. We need to carry out research on reliable data but we cannot wait. We have to keep ourselves in readiness. We cannot wait for the scenario to unfold,” he said.

As part of the policy review process, the ministry has embarked on the process of detailed consultations with various stakeholders.

It held discussions with MPs, including members of standing and consultative committees and the Parliamentary Forum on Water Conservation in July last year, followed by discussions with academics in October.

Last week, the ministry held two-day consultations with NGOs.

“The next step is to talk to state government representatives and panchayati raj institutions at various levels. We will hold regional conferences for the purpose,” the ministry official said.

He said the ministry would also consult the corporate sector before finalising a draft, which would then be discussed at a general workshop.

“The revised policy will be out this year. That is the plan,” the official said, adding that the review was being done with an open mind.

“We are taking down all the suggestions and putting them in public domain,” he said.

The water policy review is also aimed at ensuring basin level management strategies to deal with variability in rainfall and rain flows due to climate change, the official added.

The 2002 National Water Policy envisaged that states would form their own water policies. It prioritised allocation of water, giving top priority to drinking water followed by irrigation, hydropower, ecology, agro-industries and non-agricultural industries, navigation and other uses.

The policy said that water charges for various uses should be fixed so as to cover at least the operation and maintenance charges initially and a part of the capital costs subsequently. It also suggested that water be made available to deficient areas by transferring from one river basin to another after taking into account the requirements of areas.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change, which was released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in June 2008, states that the national water policy would be revisited. It stated that a national water mission be set up to ensure integrated water resource management helping to conserve water, minimise wastage and ensure more equitable distribution both across and within states.

Ministry officials said the challenges in the water sector include depleting resources, reducing per capita availability of water, deterioration in water quality, over-exploitation of ground water resources, time and cost overruns in completion of irrigation projects and poor maintenance of existing facilities.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])