Is bringing water, as a subject, under the Centre’s ambit a quick remedy to inter-state water disputes?
This view is already gaining ground with two Parliamentary Committees related to the Water Resources Ministry having unanimously recommended shifting of water from the State to the Concurrent list.
Broaching this issue, in the face of Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal’s final award, at the editors’ conference on social sector in the Capital on Monday, Water Resources Minister Saif-ud-Din Soz felt that an empowered Centre could play a more effective role on the water related issues. However, he clarified that it was the Parliament’s prerogative to decide on the subject.
Quizzed on the efficacy of Tribunals which take years to give verdicts, Soz rued that his Ministry’s performance was assessed in the light of a few such disputes. What about more than 200 agreements facilitated by the Ministry to resolve water disputes among the states all over the country, he asked.
Soz dispelled the fear that the country was heading towards major water crisis. "Certainly, we are deficient in water supply. But the situation is not alarming," he clarified. He announced that 2007 is being celebrated as Water Year to focus on the conservation and proper use of the vital natural resource.
In a letter written to the Chief Ministers, Soz has asked them to educate people on the water related issues during the year. The Centre has enlisted 20 major activities to be undertaken by the states during the period.
On its part, the Ministry has decided to set up a separate Flood Management Authority which would be entrusted the job of advance planning to tackle flood situations such as building embankments and diversion and storage of flood water.
Apparently, China’s excellent per capita water storage capacity in comparison to India will be one of the motivational factors for the Ministry to set new goals. As against China’s capacity of 1111 Billion Cubic Meters, India’s present storage capacity is a dismal 207 CBM.
According to the Ministry estimates, per capita availability of water in 2025 will come down to 1341 BCM and 1140 BCM in 2050 much below the 1700 BCM water-stress threshold standard. The present water availability is estimated at 1869 BCM out of which only 1123 BCM is usable.