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National Water Policy

 The first National Water Policy was adopted in 1987. This policy was revised in 2002 and again in 2012.

The new National Water Policy of 2012 was formulated to ensure sustainable and equitable development taking into consideration the likely impact due to climate change. The salient features of this policy are as follows:

  1. Safe water for drinking and sanitation should be considered as pre-emptive needs, followed by high priority allocation for other basic domestic needs (including needs of animals), achieving food security, supporting sustenance agriculture and minimum eco-system needs. Available water, after meeting the above needs, should be allocated in a manner to promote its conservation and efficient use.
  2. There is a need to evolve a National Water Framework Law as an umbrella statement of general principles governing the exercise of legislative and/or executive (or devolved) powers by the Centre, the States and the local governing bodies.
  3. There is a need for comprehensive legislation for optimum development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to facilitate inter-State coordination ensuring scientific planning of land and water resources.
  4. Ecological needs of the river should be determined, through scientific study, recognising that the natural river flows are characterized by low or no flows, small floods (freshets), large floods, etc., and should accommodate developmental needs.
  5. Planning and management of water resources structures, such as, dams, flood embankments, tidal embankments, etc., should incorporate coping strategies for possible climate changes. The acceptability criteria in regard to new water resources projects need to be re-worked in view of the likely climate changes.
  6. A system to evolve benchmarks for water uses for different purposes, i.e., water footprints, and water auditing should be developed to promote and incentivise efficient use of water.
  7. Pricing of water should ensure its efficient use and reward conservation. Equitable access to water for all and its fair pricing, for drinking and other uses such as sanitation, agricultural and industrial, should be arrived at through independent statutory Water Regulatory Authority, set up by each state.
  8. Water Users, Associations (WUAs) should be given statutory powers to collect and retain a portion of water charges, manage the volumetric quantum of water allotted to them and maintain the distribution system in their jurisdiction.
  9. Encroachments and diversion of water bodies (like rivers, lakes, tanks, ponds, etc.) and drainage channels (irrigated area as well as urban area drainage) must not be allowed, and wherever it has taken place, it should be restored to the extent feasible and maintained properly.
  10. Being inter-disciplinary in nature, water resources projects should be planned considering social and environmental aspects also in addition to techno-economic considerations in consultation with project affected and beneficiary families.
  11. While every effort should be made to avert water related disasters like floods and droughts, through structural and non-structural measures, emphasis should be on preparedness for flood/drought with coping mechanisms as an option. Greater emphasis should be placed on rehabilitation of natural drainage system.
  12. There is a need to remove the large disparity between stipulations for water supply in urban areas and in rural areas. Efforts should be made to provide improved water supply in rural areas with proper sewerage facilities.
  13. There should be a forum at the national level to deliberate upon issues relating to water and evolve consensus, co-operation and reconciliation amongst party states.
  14. A permanent Water Disputes Tribunal at the Centre should be established to resolve the disputes expeditiously in an equitable manner.
  15. Water resources projects and services should be managed with community participation. For improved service delivery on sustainable basis, the State Governments/urban local bodies may associate private sector in public private partnership mode with penalties for failure.
  16. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) taking river basin/sub-basin as a unit should be the main principle for planning, development and management of water resources.

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