Water Bill to help conservation efforts soon
The Union government is planning to come up with a draft National Water Framework Bill to aid the efforts of conservation and distribution of water. The new bill will be circulated as a model bill to the states, to replace the existing draft law of 2013. It will focus on demand side management of water rather than just the supply side management.
Water: A scarce resource
India is home to 17% of the global population but accounts for a mere 4% of global water resources.
What is a framework law?
A framework law is a broad set of principles which provides a framework to the Centre, States and the local government to exercise legislative or executive powers. The laws and the executive actions of different levels of government institutions will have to comply with the framework law. The deviations from the framework law can be challenged in courts of law.
Water laws can only be made by states
Under the Constitution of India, water is a state subject. Hence, only state government can make laws relating to water issues. However, the Union government can provide framework laws to help the states frame laws.
Why is a framework law on water required?
Water is increasingly becoming important in the national discourses because of the judicial recognition of water as a part of the fundamental right to life. In addition, a growing perception of an imminent water crisis, increasing instances of inter-state conflicts and impacts of climate change have brought focus to the issue. Moreover, a framework law can reduce possibilities of diverging state laws on water.
Water is a fundamental requirement for life
If national laws are considered necessary on subjects such as environment, forest, wildlife, biodiversity, etc., a national law on water is even more vital as water is an integral aspect of all these subjects.
No current law deals with efficient usage
Currently, water is managed by the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and the Water (prevention and control of pollution) Cess Act. However, these laws deal with the pollution and levy of cess, and do not stress upon the efficient usage of water or conservation techniques. Further, they also do not prioritise the allocation of water.
Provisions of the draft framework law
The new framework law will enable the states to take steps to recharge groundwater, especially in floodplains of rivers. Rather than just the supply-side management i.e. construction of dams, etc., it will emphasise on demand-side management including increasing efficiency in water usage, prioritising allocation of water, preventing over-exploitation of aquifers, etc. However, the law will require a political consensus among states to succeed.