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Dozen departments, yet a crisis

About a dozen departments look after water in Rajasthan - and it has proved to a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. However, the World Bank, which is funding a major water project, insists on nodal agency for water called State Water Resources Planning Unit. But the state bureaucracy is opposed to it.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2003 16:30 IST
PTI

The Rajasthan Government appears to be in a bind over the creation of a separate department for water, presently dealt with by about a dozen departments.

As per agreement with the World Bank, which is funding its Rs 734 crore Rajasthan Water Sector Restructuring Project (RWSRP), it created State Water Resources Planning Unit in September to act as a nodal agency.

The unit, secretariat of the Rajiv Gandhi Water Management Mission, would integrate the planning and regulation of water sector,review and make recommendations on all proposals for new water sector projects. The unit could be upgraded as department, as proposed by the World Bank.

Red tapism: But here lie the bureaucratic hassles. While the World Bank is insisting on a separate department, the state bureaucracy is in favour of the existing arrangement and just wants to continue with the unit, according to irrigation department officials.

While the officials said that the matter was pending with the Finance department, finance secretary MD Kaurani said he had no idea about any such proposal.

Irrigation secretary RN Meena was "surprised" to learn about any such move for a separate department for water.

Water departments: As it is, there are a number of departments dealing with water - Rural Development, Irrigation, Special Schemes, Watershed and Soil Conservation, Public Health and Engineering Department, Public Works Department, Relief, Forest and Environment, Ground Water, and Urban Development and Housing, among others.

But in the absence of any coordination among them, the situation is like 'the left hand not knowing what the right one is doing'.

Under the agreement with the World Bank, a separate department is to coordinate water-related works, presently executed by separate departments, should be created by June 2003.

Past water crisis: All this confusion over this new department prevails in a state that has faced drought in 45 out of the past 55 years! In December 2002, over 2,500 tankers were supply drinking water in over 2,300 villages.

The per capita availability of water, which was 2,023 cubic metre per year in 1950, has reduced to 841 cubic metre in 2002, as against the national average of 2,384 cubic metre in 2000. In about 7,000 habitations in the state, there is no proper arrangement of fresh potable water, while 48 per cent of the available surface water is flowing waste.

Although the state government claims that it had created around 17,000 water harvesting structures so far and they had brought the water level in the wells up by 1 to 15 feet, its own statistics belie the claims.

Out of the 237 blocks in the state, ground water in 65 blocks has reached the "critical" stage in 2002, compared to about 26 in 1998 and 11 in 1984. Eighty-six blocks are in "over-exploited" category compared to 41 in 1998 and 12 in 1984. Thirty-two blocks are in "semi-critical" category.

DK Singh

First Published: Jul 12, 2003 15:21 IST