Govt plans National Water Commission In one of the most significant reforms in the water sector in a long time, the govt is in the process of ordering a complete restructuring of the organisations responsible for regulating the use of water resources, with the objective of bringing in greater efficiency, better planning and increased emphasis on conservation of water. According to news report the Central Water Commission (CWC), which oversees irrigation projects, flood management and drinking water supply, and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) are likely to be disbanded, and a National Water Commission is proposed to be set up in their place. A few other smaller organisations with specialised mandate like data gathering and analysis are also likely to be created.
A team under Mihir Shah, a former member of the then Planning Commission of India, is already preparing a blueprint for better management of water resources. The idea of institutional restructuring is said to have the backing of this panel. It is likely to submit its report in the next two months. In the new scheme of things, more emphasis is being given to judicious use, and conservation, of ground water. It is estimated that despite elaborate irrigation projects, about 60 per cent of irrigation during the non-rainy season is still done by pumping out ground water. The large irrigation projects, meanwhile, have given sub-optimal results.
A large number of sewage treatment plants, being built as part of the Clean Ganga initiative that will eventually spread to other rivers as well, will provide a new source of water that is fit not only for industrial use but also for irrigation and many other purposes. The river rejuvenation plans, not just of Ganga but others as well, will become an integral part of overall water resources management. Apart from reducing pollution in the rivers, and maintaining a minimum ecological flow, the rejuvenation plans would also ensure that the rivers are able to adequately recharge the aquifers in its basins.
Allocation of water resources to each state is also on the agenda. But this process is likely to take time as it would involve extensive consultations with the state governments. Once a consensus emerges, a central legislation on allocation of water resources is planned to be brought in. This is aimed at reducing inter-state water disputes.