Government to introduce new National Water Policy next year
15 April 2011
An international conference on South Asia’s water future, organised by Observer Research Foundation in association with the PHD Chamber of Commerce, has underlined the need for proper management of this largely exploited and poorly utilized natural resource.
While the speakers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore stressed on the need for increasing water efficiency through management and modern technology, the Union Minister of Water Mr. Salman Khurshid said the Centre will introduce a new National Water Policy next year. India’s current National Water Policy was adopted way back in 2002.
Delivering the key note address at the conference on "Blue Revolution: Charting South Asia’s Water Future", Mr. Salman Khurshid said the Central Government is planning to convene a day-long meeting of the Chief Ministers to discuss the issue of water management and how to improve storage and utilisation.
"The Prime Minister has agreed to address a day-long session of the Chief Ministers" Mr. Salman Khurshid said. He said while the Centre is formulating a new water policy, which would incorporate the central issue of governance, including all aspects like environment and development, the States are free to formulate their own policies as water is a state subject.
Stressing the need to change the mindset about water while is part of one’s culture and lifestyle, the Minister said the Government would bring in changes in laws if necessary, including some changes in the Constitution.
Saying that "we are sitting on a volcano and a major crisis is staring at us", the Minister said his ministry is keen to make the water issue a people’s movement to help change the people’s mindset. "We would start a ’Water Week’ from next year", he said.
"These are all ambitious plans, but we have no choice but to implement it," he said.
The Minister said he is waiting for signals from the Nepal government to take forward talks with the Nepalese government following his good talks with the Nepalese President when he visited India.
In his valedictory address, former Union Power Minister and chairman of the Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, said South Asian countries should come together to tackle issues like climate change and water sharing and floods which affect them all.
Calling for proper regulation of ground water exploitation, which is threatening to convert Punjab into a desert like situation with fast declining ground water, Mr. Prabhu said efficient water management and population control are the solutions to the problem for all South Asian countries.
He said India and Pakistan should develop trust by first exchanging dialogues between farmers of Punjabs of both the countries.
Mr. Prabhu said water is wasted due to bad management and poor technology not only in agriculture but also in power generation and other sectors. He said power generation has to be made less water intensive.
The day long conference, with sessions on ’Defining the South Asian Water Challenge’, ’Charting Solutions for Efficient Water Management’ and ’Water Policy Design and Implementation’, was attended by experts from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore besides India. Pakistani scholars -- Mr. Ahmad Rafay Alam and Mr. Muhammad Azeem Ali Shah - were from the Lahore University of Management Sciences while Bangladesh was represented by Dr. Q.K. Ahmad, chairman of the governing council of the Dhaka School of Economics.
The other participants were Mr. A.K. Bajaj, chairman, Central Water Commission, Prof. Bhanoji Rao of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Dr. Rohan D’Souza, Asst. Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Mr. A.G. Noorani, senior advocate, author and columnist, Prof. A.K. Gosain, head, department of civil engineering, IIT, Delhi, Prof. A.K. Jain, head, department of soil and water engineering, Punjab Agricultural University, Prof. Perm S Vashishtha, Incharge, R & D, Sharda University, Uttar Pradesh, Prof. Inder Singh Sidhu, Punjab University, Mr. Mohd. Shawahiq Siddiqui, advocate, Enviro Legal Defence Firm, Uttar Pradesh and Mr. S.R. Ramanujam, director, Samatva Infrastructure Advisors, Mumbai.
Mr. Salil Bhandari, President, PHD Chamber of Commerce, delivered the welcome address and Mr. Vikram Sood, Vice President, ORF, gave the remarks and vote of thanks.
• Text of the Minister’s speech