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National Water Framework Bill 2016, Draft by Mihir Shah Committee

National Water Framework Bill 2016: Dr. Mihir Shah formed a committee that drafted the legislation, National Water Framework Bill in 2016. The Committee was formed by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation. The main objective of the legislation was to monitor, safeguard, conserve, and control the use of water in India. The Indian Constitution designates water as a state subject, which indicates that the state has to intervene and decide on laws related to water.

National Water Framework Bill 2016

The Draft National Water Framework Bill (NWF), 2016 was released on May 16 by the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation. The Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016 serves as an overall national legislative framework that contains principles for the conservation, management, regulation, and protection of water. Water is considered a scarce and essential natural resource, which is addressed by the Draft National Water Framework Bill. The public was also encouraged by the Ministry to provide feedback and recommendations on the draft framework. The Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016  was sent to the states as a model measure to replace the 2013 draft framework on water. The new proposed legal framework on water guarantees everyone the right to a minimum quantity of “safe water,” while also requiring the state to “protect” and save water.

Draft National Water Framework Bill 2016

‘Water’ is a state subject in the 7th schedule. The concept of a National Water Framework Law is not a new phenomenon. The Planning Commission primarily originated this idea as a part of the documentation for the 12th five-year plan. However, the government did not adopt the suggested bill of the Planning Commission. The YK Alagh Committee was set up later to create a draft of such a framework law related to water, catering for all water-related issues. Still, there was no substantial progress on the subject of water. There was much political suppression and conflicting opinions from the chief ministers of various states about avoiding the centralization of water by the government.

Need of the Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016

The Indian constitution was written before the water shortage became a major concern and crisis. With the exception of interstate rivers, water was retained on the state list. Water-related cases have been brought before the courts on occasion, where the court has established the right to water as a fundamental right under Article 21 Right to Life. In Chameli Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court said that the right to live guaranteed as a basic human right encompasses the right to food, water, a decent environment, education, medical care, and shelter. The need for a streamlined national framework law over water arose due to a lack of judicial recognition of the right to water, a lack of measures to conserve water, inter-state water conflicts, pollution, and long-term ecological and social implications for the usage of water.

There are a number of concerns reflecting the imperative need for the Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016:

  • The rapid increase in population, rise in demand, and urbanization are the challenges to water security leading to scarcity.
  • Lack of addressing the topic of administration and management of water resources.
  • Lack of awareness among the people about the cost and high demand for water.
  • Lack of well-skilled personnel for scientific planning and modern techniques.
  • A comprehensive approach to water-related issues is missing.
  • Climate change and the factors leading to it affect and deplete the water resources.
  • Skewed drinking and clean water availability give rise to social unrest in several regions.

Objectives of the Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016

The purposes of proposing the Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016 are:

  • Foremostly, it aims to decentralise water management and enable the panchayats and gram sabhas with extended powers to decide ways of optimum utilization of water.
  • To provide a uniform and streamlined national legal framework to manage water in a better and more efficient way.
  • The bill seeks to set up a mechanism to develop and manage river basins in an integrated manner.
  • This mechanism will help the states to get an equitable share of the river’s water without violating the rights of others.
  • It calls for the establishment of a River Basin Authority for each inter-state basin to ensure optimum and sustainable development of rivers and valleys.
  • It proposes the establishment of institutional arrangements at all levels to solve disputes through negotiations, conciliation or mediation before they become acute.
  • It also devises an integrated approach to conserve water and manage groundwater in a sustainable manner.
  • It says that every person has a right to enough safe water for life within easy reach of the household.

Features of the Draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016

The bill has been designed to address a variety of issues, covering multiple areas of concern. This article provides a detailed overview of some of the salient features of this bill. The 12 most significant features of the National Water Framework Bill, 2016 are as the following:

No. Significant Features of the National Water Framework Bill, 2016
1 Right to Water for Life-

·      Each individual is entitled to an adequate amount of safe water.

·      Every agency responsible for providing drinking water must adhere to the Manual of the Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation.

2 Revitalisation of Rivers-

·      Aviral Dhara – This involves maintaining the flow connectivity in each river system.

·      Nirmal Dhara – This ensures that the quality of rivers remains unaffected by human activities.

·      Swachh Kinara – This involves efforts to keep riverbanks clean and aesthetically pleasing.

·      Reviving aquifers, which are a crucial source of rivers.

3 Protection of Ecosystems Dependent on Water-

·      Rivers are to be protected from construction activities on their floodplains.

·      Rivers should be safeguarded from sand mining.

4 People-Centred Water Management-

·      The bill emphasises water conservation activities by people, which include Rainwater harvesting techniques, Watershed development and Participatory irrigation management.

5 Correlation between Water Use and Land Use-

·      The bill stresses on appropriate land use in suitable regions.

·      It advocates for sustainable agricultural practices for optimal use of water.

6 Treatment and Utilisation of Wastewater- Treatment and Utilisation of Wastewater
7 Integrated River Basin Development and Management-

  • This is aimed at preventing the adverse effects of water table reduction and river drying.
  • Any development activity will be undertaken only after taking into consideration the hydrological, ecological and agro-climatic conditions.
  • The Central Government will establish a river basin authority for every interstate river and valley.

·      The river basin authority will focus on social, economic development, land use, rural, and urban development.

8 Project Planning and Management- Panchayats, Municipalities, Corporations will be involved in the planning and management of projects.
9 Planning for Water Security-

  • A Water Security Plan should be prepared to ensure water security at all times, even during emergencies like droughts and floods.
  • Incentives will be provided for switching to water-intensive crops.
  • Incentives will be given for adopting water conservation technologies such as drip irrigation and sprinklers.
  • Efforts will be made to set up groundwater recharge structures and promote the use of energy-efficient pumps.

·      Water Security plans will be in place for 5 years and will be amended or revised after every 5 years.

10 Water Resource Information System-

  • The Central Government will develop and maintain the Water Resources Information System (WRIS), using satellite imageries.
  • A National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) will be established to regularly collect hydrological data from all over the country.
11 Promotion of Innovation and Knowledge Management- The government will promote research in technology to address the issues in the water sector.
12 Water Conflicts – Interstate Water disputes – Institutional arrangements will be established to resolve inter-state water disputes.

National Water Mission Launch Date

Initially, the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was prepared by the Government of India and released by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 30th June 2008. The NAPCC announced the principles and approaches to combat the challenges of the impact of climate change through various National Missions namely the National Solar Mission, the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat and the National Water Mission.

The National Water Mission was proposed to serve the following goals:

  • To provide a comprehensive water database in the public domain and assessment of the impact of climate change on water resources.
  • To promote actions of the citizens and states for water conservation, augmentation and preservation.
  • To focus attention on vulnerable areas including over-exploited areas.
  • Increase water use efficiency by 20%.
  • To promote basin-level integrated water resource management.

The National Water Mission also known as Jal Jeevan Mission was then launched in 2011. The areas of concern for the country were the per capita availability of water reducing every year, reducing groundwater tables, prolonged droughts, and floods due to excess rains; water conservation and storage. The primary purposes of the National Water Mission were to conserve water, minimize wastage and manage water resources in such a way that there is an equal distribution of water across the nation.

The objective of the National Water Mission:

  1. Increase water use efficiency by 20% through regulations, differential entitlements and pricing.
  2. A considerable share of the water needs of urban areas is to be met through the recycling of wastewater.
  3. Water requirements of coastal cities are to be met through the adoption of low-temperature desalination technologies.
  4. Consult with states to ensure that basin-level management strategies are made to deal with variability in rainfall and river flows due to climate change.
  5. Enhance storage above and below ground, and implement rainwater harvesting.
  6. Adopt large-scale irrigation programmes which rely on sprinklers, drip irrigation and ridge and furrow irrigation.

National Water Policy, 2012 Summary

The National Water Policy (2012) determined the need to develop a National Water Framework Law as a comprehensive legislation of general principles governing the exercise of legislative/executive powers by the Centre, the States and the local governing bodies. The objective of the National Water Policy, 2012 is to assess the existing situation and to propose a framework for a plan of action with a unified national perspective. In 2012, the Ministry of Water Resources formulated the Draft National Water Policy in consultation with the National Water Board and National Water Resource Council. The 2012 water policy introduced the pricing mechanism for the overuse of water.

The objectives of the National Water Policy (2012) are as follows:

  • Comprehensive legislation for optimum development of inter-state rivers and river valleys.
  • Ecological needs of the river should be determined recognizing that river flows are characterized by low or no flows, small floods (freshets), large floods and flow variability and should accommodate development needs.
  • Adaptation strategies in view of climate change for designing and management of water resource structures.
  • A system to evolve benchmarks for water uses for different purposes, i.e., water footprints, and water auditing be developed to ensure efficient use of water.
  • The setting up of the Water Regulatory Authority has been recommended.
  • Incentivization of recycling and reuse has been recommended.
  • Removal of large disparity in stipulations for water supply in urban areas and in rural areas has been recommended.
  • Adequate grants to the States to update technology, design practices, planning and management practices, preparation of annual water balances and accounts for the site and basin, preparation of hydrologic balances for water systems, and benchmarking and performance evaluation etc.

Challenges in Water Policy 2012

  • Water Governance
  • Shift to Demand Management
  • Sustainable and Equitable Groundwater Management
  • Economic Value of Rivers
  • Water Quality

Water Policies by the Indian Government – History

  • There have been three water policies framed and adopted by the Indian Government so far the National Water Policy of 1987, 2002 and 2012.
  • After independence, various water-related programs and policies started namely, the National rural drinking water program in 1969, Excavated rural water supply program in 1973, Establishment of National water Resource Council in 1983 and many more.
  • The first National Water Policy was adopted in India in 1987. The purpose of the policy was to govern the planning, development and optimum utilisation of water resources.
  • Later, it was amended in 2002 and 2012. This policy of 1987 did not mention environmental flow in rivers. However, the second policy (2002) mentioned that for ecological and social considerations a minimum flow should be there in the perennial stream.
  • In 1994, the 73rd constitutional amendment assigned the responsibility of providing drinking water to the Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • In 1999, a separate department of Drinking water supply was formed in the Ministry of Rural Development Government of India.
  • In 2002, the revised National Water Policy was adopted by the National Water Resource Council on 1st April 2002.
  • In 2016, the Government placed the National Water Framework Bill which defines water for life as one of the core requirements for the fundamental right of life of each human being, including drinking, cooking bathing, sanitation, personal hygiene and related personal and domestic uses.

Comparison of Water Policies Of 1987, 2002 and 2012

The approach to water resources planning for the National Water Policy of 1987 and 2002 was on the national level, whereas the 2012 policy is from an integrated perspective considering local regional, state and national levels. The policies of 1987 and 2002 were mostly on the same lines.

In the water frameworks of 1987 and 2002, there was a standardised national information system. In the 2012 policy, the focus is that all water-related data should be integrated with well-defined procedures and formats to ensure online updating and transfer of data to facilitate the development of the database for informed decision-making in the management of water.

The 1987 and 2002 water policy discusses the establishment of appropriate organisations for the planned development and management of a river basin as a whole. However, the policy of 2012 envisages that there is a need for comprehensive legislation for the optimum development of Interstate River and river valleys and to enable the establishment of basin authorities with appropriate powers to plan, manage and regulate the utilisation of water resources in the basins.

The 1987 and 2002 water policy discusses the hydrological unit such as a drainage basin as a whole or a sub-basin while the 2012 policy laid down that Integrated Water Resources Management taking river basin / sub-basin as a unit, should be the main principle for planning, development and management of water resources.

The 1987 and 2002 water policy discusses that the water resource development projects should as far as possible be planned and developed as multipurpose projects while the 2012 policy laid down that all water resources projects, including hydropower projects, should be planned to the extent feasible as multi-purpose projects with provision of storage to derive maximum benefit from available topology and water resources.

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Who headed the committee that drafted the National Water Framework Bill 2016?

The committee that drafted the National Water Framework Bill 2016 was headed by Dr Mihir Shah.

What is the main objective of the National Water Framework Bill 2016?

The main objective of the National Water Framework Bill 2016 is to conserve, manage, protect and regulate the use of water.

How many Water Policies are there in India till now?

There have been three water policies framed and adopted by the Indian Government so far the National Water Policy of 1987, 2002 and 2012.

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