Did the Twelfth Plan Offer a Sustainable Solution for Water Conservation?

Incessant rainfall across India’s western coast during the 2019 monsoon has led to flooding in many states, with over 140 deaths reported so far. Kerala alone accounts for over half of these fatalities. However, rainfall across the country has been erratic. Dams in at least 10 states still hold less water than their normal storage levels and states like Haryana in northern India are facing drought-like conditions. Nearly 50% of the country is experiencing between “abnormally dry” and “extremely dry” conditions, and 163 million people in India do not have access to clean water. By 2050, it is predicted that Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Chennai will be among the 20 most water-stressed cities in the world.

In 2009, the Indian government started the Integrated Watershed Management Programme, which was aimed at conserving water along with soil and forests. Mihir Shah’s 2013 article discusses the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012 to 2017), the focus of which was also to ensure water conservation and encourage sustainability practices in India. According to Shah, the plan was a “paradigm shift” in water conservation as it adopted a participatory management perspective to improve groundwater levels and increase the efficiency of irrigation projects. C J Perry responds to Shah, arguing that the plan’s proposed ideas were“worryingly simplistic,” and calls for further analysis of water resource management. In his reply, Shah says that Perry had misunderstood the plan, and re-emphasises the plan’s necessity to ensure people’s access to clean, potable water.  

A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. Challenges in Water Governance: A Story of Missed Opportunities, Himanshu Thakkar, 2019
  2. Can Outdated Water Institutes Steer India Out of Water Crisis? Himanshu Thakkar and J Harsha, 2019
  3. Ageing Large Dams and Future Water Crisis, J Harsha, 2019
  4. More than Just Water: Participatory Irrigation Management in Maharashtra, Varun Panickar, 2018
  5. Water Quality: Pollution through Aqua Culture, J Rama Rao, Jasveen Jairath, P Umesh, 2006


Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at edit@epw.in with the subject line—"Water: Sustainability and Scarcity."

Curated by Kieran Lobo [kieran@epw.in]

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