MP drafts right to water law, promises 55 litre/day to each
The draft law, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, is based on the public trust doctrine, which provides for citizens having the first right over natural resources such as water.Updated: Feb 25, 2020 04:17 IST
Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh has drafted a Right To Water legislation that promises a minimum of 55 litres a day per person to the state’s 76.2 million residents, a fine and a jail term of up to 18 months for anyone affecting the quality of water, and a 0.5% cess on all construction work to fund development of water infrastructure.
MP is the first state in the country to have drafted such a law. The Central government last year announced a Jal Shakti Mission promising piped drinking water to every household by 2024.
The draft law, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, is based on the public trust doctrine, which provides for citizens having the first right over natural resources such as water. The MP government seeks to consider water a “fundamental right” on the lines of right of life enshrined in the Constitution.
“The Right to Water Act will be based on equal and fundamental right of every citizen over natural resources like the Right to Food and Freedom,” said a senior government official of the public health engineering (PHE) department who didn’t want to be named
Drinking water is the first priority, followed by water for irrigation, industry and public recreation in that order, according to the draft. It also says that water will be spared for the industrial sector and public recreation only after environment and social impact assessments are done.
The draft aims to set up two bodies --- the state water management authority (SWMA) to ensure protection of quality of water sources and soil health besides stipulating regulations for treatment plans and Jal Manch, a committee of stakeholders in every panchayat.
The draft contains provisions on ensuring environmental flow of rivers, sustaining ecosystems dependent on water, regulation of sand mining on river beds, preservation of water quality, mandatory rainwater harvesting, conservation of catchment areas, increasing the irrigation network and effective groundwater management.
The proposed law seeks to have water security zones and plans for surface and groundwater sources . The state government will be empowered to notify separate regulations for these zones .
“With water crisis deepening it’s not possible to ensure certain amount of water to everyone without imposing restrictions on use of groundwater and also punitive measures on such offences,” the official cited in the first instance said.
The draft has a separate section on penalties. Section 52 of the draft bill states, “Whoever affects the quality of water or its availability shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend up to 18 months or with a fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh or with both.” The fine will be doubled for repeat offenders.
The draft prescribes more stringent punishment for extracting water from a “water protection zone”, which will be demarcated in case of drought or any other threat to water sources, and not complying with instructions given by the state water management authority. For such offences, the offender will be punished with imprisonment between six months and three years along with a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.
The draft proposes 0.5% cess to be collected on all kinds of construction works in the state because of the financial constraints of the state government
Sanjay Singh, national convener of Jal-Jan Jodo, a group that works on water related issues said,”Not just MP but every state has to think of how to use water judiciously. If we don’t act right now, only 40% of people in the country will have access to water by 2030, which will come down to 30% by 2050.
“Though MP is a water hub, distribution and management is the biggest challenge. About 70% of water is used for irrigation, industries us 18% and the rest (12%) is for domestic use. The water allocated for irrigation and industries has to be reduced to make more drinking water available,” he added
Sukhdev Panse, minister for PHE, said, “The state government is working on the Right to Water Act in line with chief minister Kamal Nath’s instructions. We will be the first state to have such a law and hope to show the way to others on how to make judicious use of it to ensure water for all.”