M A I N   N E W S

No privatisation of water resources, says govt
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, May 7
The government today specified that under no circumstances it would ever go in for privatisation of water resources in the country. “The answer is no and it will remain a no. It can never happen that we sell off any of our water resource to a private party…like a river, it cannot be sold off,” Water Resources Minister Pawan Bansal told the Rajya Sabha in response to a query on the issue.

Although there is no proposal for privatisation of the precious natural resource, the minister said the government would encourage public-private partnership (PPP) mode for effective and sustainable water utilisation.

“The Centre cannot impose any condition on any state as to how it prices water. To that extent, water is priced even today. All municipal corporations charge for it. But, again, a question arises as to whether the operation and maintenance cost should not be met out of pricing. Only then, the supply can be sustainable one. Otherwise, supply of water cannot remain sustainable,” Bansal argued.

Giving examples of Tirpur, Salt Lake (Kolkata), Chennai, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Hubli, Dharwar, Belgaum, Gulbarga, Lattur, Mysore, Haldia, Dewas, the Water Resources Minister said the PPP mode for water distribution was already being effectively used in several parts of the country.

While the new water policy, on which the consultations are already on, will emphasise on principles of community-driven equitable sharing, there are indications of a shift in the existing rules for utilisation of groundwater. At present, groundwater belongs to the person who owns the land, but Bansal today sought the support of the House in understanding whether the practice should be allowed to carry on in future as well. The precious natural resource, he said, needs to be treated as a “trust”, a “national heritage”.

The new policy may hold stricter guidelines for extracting groundwater, the levels of which are receding in most parts of the country.

In answer to another question, the Centre also said that 71 per cent of the wells analysed in Punjab registered decline in groundwater. In a recent observation in the 2G case, the apex court has also opined that the government should auction natural resources and not allot them or allow unregulated extraction, a ruling which many experts interpreted in context of water resources.

However, since water is a state subject, the proposed policy will only act as a guideline for the state governments. “The Centre cannot dictate any state or union territory as to what policy has to be followed. The Water Policy of 2012 that we are intending to make will be a sort of guideline for other states to follow,” Bansal said.

In its draft policy, the ministry had said water should be valued as an economic good to maximise its conservation and efficient use.

While the term “privatisation” was not be used in the draft policy, the Centre’s proposal of the PPP model for states in order to shift from being a “service provider” to a “facilitator” for supply of water came under severe criticism from activists, who charged the government with trying to privatise the precious natural resource and destroying its cultural importance.





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