M A I N   N E W S

Groundwater for a price?
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 15
In future, big users of groundwater, including farmers, may have to pay more for extracting groundwater while the economically weaker section of the society and small farmers likely to be charged a subsidised rate.

The 12th National Symposium on Hydrology with focal theme of “Groundwater Governance: Ownership of groundwater and its pricing” today recommended a slab system for water pricing structure, besides 23 other points, including the need for the proper assessment of groundwater resources at the macro and the micro level in each state and the revamping of all water-related laws.

The idea of “appropriate pricing”, already has blessings of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the Ministry of Water Resources and is likely to face no resistance in transforming into a reality. Dr Ahluwalia, advocating appropriate pricing for ground water extraction, had yesterday said that the commission was looking into the issue of whether it was possible to levy a cess on users of groundwater for non-drinking purposes.

He said that the Kirit Parikh Committee of the Planning Commission, which was considering the issue, had submitted an interim report and the final report, to be finalised by December, would be placed for discussion at the National Development Council meeting when it discusses 11th Plan.

The list of recommendations, which has the consensus of all members who participated in the two-day conference will also serve as guidelines for any future policy on groundwater.

One of the recommendations was that it was difficult to prescribe “pricing” as one of the tool for groundwater management, because it was difficult to price or regulate a resource as the ownership rights were not defined clearly. Which is why a regulatory mechanism needs to be evolved by introducing slab system of pricing groundwater for different users and also on the quantum. Meaning, higher the consumption more should be the price.

Another recommendation is that the high water consuming industries should be preferably located in areas with high potential of groundwater.

However, the ticklish issue of groundwater ownership could not be resolved and the ministry has been asked to constitute a committee to resolve it. Suitable modifications in the National Water Policy and redrafting, including evolving a proper policy for groundwater governance for each state, have now been recommended to solve the issues.

One of the recommendations is that the governance and ownership and property rights issues in the groundwater sector has not been properly resolved, resulting in anomalies in water management. The regulations and management of groundwater has to reflect equity and protection of weaker sections issues as also quality and environment concerns.

“The National Water Policy needs suitable modifications and redrafting, including an appropriate policy for groundwater governance for each state.”



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