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Bengaluru group urges consensus on National Water Framework Law

Bengaluru: In view of recurring crises like the recent Cauvery water-related dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, a local think tank formed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has called on stakeholders to reach an expeditious consensus on the provisions of the bill for a National Water Framework Law proposed by the Centre.

“The National Water Commission and the National Framework Law for water are important to establish the principles of governance in the water sector, and to speed up the Water Resources Information System to provide hard data,” the TERI Bangalore Sustainable Development Group said in a statement following a meeting here earlier this week to discuss water sector issues.

“The idea of a National Water Framework Law (NWFL) proposed by the central government has, however, received a push-back from the states. Under the Indian Constitution, water is primarily a State subject, but it is an important national concern,” it said.

The Bengaluru group said various aspects, including the judicial recognition of the right to water as a fundamental component of the right to life, the sense of an imminent crisis in water, the need to conserve, the pollution of rivers and other water sources, “and the inter-use and inter-state conflicts due to water have placed responsibilities on the central government to address water as a national issue”.

“The NWFL should be discussed comprehensively to arrive at a consensus among stakeholders on the provisions of the Bill, and the policies of other sectors should be aligned with the water sector policies.”

In this connection, former Secretary in the Water Resources Ministry and currently Distinguished Fellow at TERI Syamal K. Sarkar noted in the meeting that a glaring example that required addressing is of free electricity for agriculture in some states, which often runs counter to the water conservation efforts of the same state governments.

“Water is an emotive and volatile issue, and its political resolution is difficult. There is need to move away from the emotive aspects to basing policy decisions in water on hard data,” the statement said.

The Supreme Court earlier this week said it would consider if the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal should have gone into river water agreements between the then Madras Presidency and erstwhile ruler of the Mysore State in 1892 and 1924 in determining the quantum of water for Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and others.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, started its final hearing on the civil appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry against the final decision of the tribunal of 2007.

The Tribunal, set up in 1990, announced its final order in 2007 allocating 419 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) water to Tamil Nadu and 270 tmcft to Karnataka. Kerala was given 30 tmcft and Puducherry 7 tmcft. According to the tribunal, the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin stood at 740 tmcft.

IANS