ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Comment on the Proposed National Water Commission

Describing the tasks proposed for the National Water Commission as visionary, varied, and vast, this article underlines that ensuring high performance, accountability, speedy implementation, and cost effectiveness to India’s water management is a massive challenge. Highlighting three major problem areas, it suggests possible ways forward. 

In an EPW article in 2013, Mihir Shah warned that India’s water problems threaten to become calamitous in the next two decades (Shah 2013). The government set up special groups to come up with a paradigm shift in water management. Based on this new thinking, the Twelfth Five Year Plan came up with a number of ideas on more effective management of India’s water resources (Shah 2013). The Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) headed by Shah was set up to come up with concrete proposals to address the water problems. It submitted its report titled, “A 21st Century Institutional Architecture for India’s Water Resources,” to the central government in July 2016.

The report holds that it may be far cheaper to more fully utilise our existing water storage potential than spending huge sums on new dams. Further, it recommends merging the CWC and CGWB into a new, autonomous, and accountable organisation called the National Water Commission (NWC). The NWC would facilitate the formulation of a national water policy, secure the necessary data, and ensure effective governance of the entire machinery, central as well as state, operating the nation’s water resources through incentives and expert advice. It would also create an effective regulatory mechanism that maintains the right balance between the needs of development and the compulsions of protecting the environment. The report also recommends the management of a river basin as a whole to rejuvenate each river, and the induction of professionals from different fields for more effective management of water resources to ensure that every farm in the country gets water, among others.

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