Four non-Congress States oppose Centre’s water policy

Kashmir Times. Dated: 12/29/2012 4:37:30 AM

NEW DELHI, DEC 28 (Agencies):

Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar say such laws should be prepared by States and not the Centre; Karnataka wants the Inter-State Water Disputes Act revisited

Four non-Congress ruled States — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — on Friday opposed an overarching national legal framework on water management, saying any such law should be prepared by the States and not the Centre.

Another, non-Congress State, Karnataka, meanwhile wanted a relook into the Inter-State Water Disputes Act to remove “loose ends” in the legislation.

In a speech at the sixth meeting of the National Water Resources Council in New Delhi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, “Water-related laws are important to be prepared at the level of States so that legal rights in this regard are fully with them.” His speech was read out by the state Water Resources Minister Ramvichar Netam.

The draft national water policy proposes an overarching legal framework but says that it is only an umbrella statement of general principles, not aimed at encroaching upon the rights of the States.

Mr. Singh said in the coming years, multi-fold increase in the demand for water is expected and there was a need for a practical water policy.

“To meet the demand and supply of water would be a big challenge. To tackle such a problem, there is need to prepare a detailed plan,” Mr. Singh said.

Echoing his Chhattisgarh counterpart’s views, Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda said the new water policy indicates a design to tamper with the basic structure of the Constitution as water comes under the state subject.

Participating in the meeting Mr. Munda said, “There is no need to enact any central law on this subject nor it is in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution“.

He said that since all the provisions of the National Water Policy-2012 are related to better management “the need is that the Centre should recommend the proposed provisions for better water resources management as envisaged in the new central policy to states so that they can manage the water resources better“.

He rued that while on one hand there is a talk about integrated water management, there is no discipline in the current education system to prepare experts for the same.

Addressing the meeting, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said the Centre should restrict itself to deciding on the principles of such a framework and leave law making to States.

“While the U.P. government agrees to most of the proposals (in the draft Water Policy), the proposal to create a law on water is a sensitive issue. Water is a state subject according to the Constitution and states have a right to formulate policies keeping in mind their special needs,” he said.

Mr. Yadav’s speech was read out in absentia by State PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav.

Amid disputes between States over water-sharing, Karnataka demanded formation of a permanent water disputes tribunal in the Supreme Court and revisiting the Inter-State Water Disputes Act to remove “loose ends” in the legislation.

“Permanent water dispute tribunal should be established in the Apex Court and its benches at all the States’ High Courts on the lines of the Green Bench,” Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said in his speech at the meeting.

He suggested that it should have a sitting Supreme Court judge as its chairperson with multi-members from technical, environmental, geological, economical and legal fields.

Noting that present laws “create more disputes because of several loose ends” in the existing Acts, Mr. Shettar said that Inter-State Water Disputes Act should be revisited.

MAHARASHTRA DEMANDS PLANNING OF BASINS

Faced with water shortages, Maharashtra demanded planning of basins or sub-basins on the basis of average annual water availability after factoring in limitations put in by awards of river dispute tribunals.

Addressing the meeting, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said almost 80 per cent of Maharashtra was rain-fed and the projected irrigation potential was not beyond 30 per cent of the total area.

“To overcome the natural handicaps in the availability of water, we are proposing the planning of basins/sub—basins on the basis of the average annual water availability — subject of course to limitations put in by the awards of the river water dispute tribunals,” he said.

Mr. Chavan said it would be helpful if this requirement of water short basins could be covered by appropriate wording in the National Water Policy.

He supported the provisions in the policy to keep aside a portion of river flows to meet the ecological needs ensuring that the low and high flow releases are proportional to the natural flow regime, including base flow contribution in the low flow season through regulated ground water use.

HIMACHAL SEEKS LIBERAL CENTRAL ASSISTANCE

Himachal Pradesh asked the Centre to provide liberal financial support for development of water resources infrastructure in the State.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the State has launched World Bank-funded Hydrology Project II, to develop a robust, comprehensive and reliable hydrological database at a cost of Rs. 59.48 crore.

ARUNACHAL DISAPPOINTED OVER ADB REFUSAL

Arunachal Pradesh expressed its dissatisfaction over dropping of its proposal for Asian Development Bank funding of flood mitigation projects in the state.

Addressing the meeting, the State’s Water Resources Development Minister Newlai Tingkhatra said Arunachal Pradesh had submitted a proposal for ADB funding to mitigate flood related problems but it was subsequently dropped.

“Our state’s proposal was dropped whereas other states are enjoying the ADB grants. So our state be provided with adequate internal fund for mitigating flood related havocs,” he said.

In his speech, Manipur Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh said his State would soon formulate Manipur State Water Policy on the lines of the National Water Policy.

Water resources is unconstitutional: Bihar

Claiming that central regulation and control of water resources is unconstitutional and detrimental to its growth as well as that of other states, Bihar also opposed the National Water Policy, 2012.

The provision for central regulation and control of water resources is unconstitutional and brazen violation of the federal structure under which water comes under the state’s jurisdiction, state Water Resources Department (WRD) Minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary said in a statement.

It will also adversely affect development story of Bihar with water being its main natural resource in the event of the Centre seeking to regulate and control the resource, the minister said.

He said Bihar has a strong objection to water being described as national resource and added that if so was the case, then why such resources in other states have not been made made available for use by other states.

Mr. Chaudhary was referring to mines and minerals and ports or fisheries available in abundance in many states and said that the centre should chalk out policy or system for collective use of these resources for benefit of those states which were deprived of such resources.

Either the centre should stick to existing policy for regulation and control of water by the states in its jurisdiction or nationalise all resources and develop a system for collective use by all states without any constraints, the WRD minister said.

Mr. Chaudhary also drew the centre’s attention towards flood problems in Bihar due to overflow of water from Nepal and said that these problems should be taken up for urgent redressal, besides water resources management be developed in the state at the initiative of the central government.

The state government has proposed to construct dams on Koshi, Baghmati and Kamla rivers for water resources management and the centre should help us both financially and taking up the flood problem with Nepal for permanent solution, he said

 

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