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Critical analysis of the Integrated Water Resources Management legal framework in India.

Kaur Bains, J., 2023. Critical analysis of the Integrated Water Resources Management legal framework in India. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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Water security is critical not only for achieving economic growth, social development, and maintaining the ecosystem but also for ensuring political stability in any country. Since declining water security will ultimately constrain economic growth, slow poverty alleviation, and leave many exposed to the threats of floods, droughts, and water-borne disease. Today, water security has become one of the biggest challenges facing the world. The situation is more severe in developing countries such as India. There are vast differences in water availability in Indian rivers due to the variability of supply through time as a result of both seasonal variation and inter-annual variation. This not only equates to the unreliability of the resource, but it also causes floods and drought due to its uneven distribution, which poses significant challenges to water managers in particular and societies as a whole. Moreover, achieving spectacular economic growth over the decades has further accelerated the problem while options for supply augmentation are few. In addition to these challenges, water pollution has emerged as one of the most critical issues in India, as almost 70% of the surface water and groundwater resources are contaminated by biological, toxic, organic, and inorganic pollutants. In the face of these challenges, better management of water quality, and achieving water security have become one of the biggest challenges. The problem of water security is further aggravated by shortcomings in the current water management system. The sectoral approach to water resources management dominated in the past and still prevails to some extent has proved inadequate for managing water resources effectively. This approach to water resources has been geared towards resource development through capital investments rather than water management in India. This inadequacy of the existing water governance has led to the realisation of a paradigm shift from water resource development to water resource conservation and management by highlighting the need for institutional reform. This institutional reform in the country has been introduced as Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The concept of IWRM was officially introduced at the international level in 1992 at the Dublin conference and has since been adopted worldwide. A central goal of IWRM is to achieve water security at the river basin level for all purposes. The route to achieving water security requires creating adaptable governance mechanisms to achieve Economic efficiency, Environmental sustainability, and social equity, including Poverty reduction. The broad framework for IWRM involves implementing a few elements/ principles into practice as part of water governance. Firstly, IWRM intends to move away from top-down, centralised approaches for water security towards a more flexible, decentralised approach that involves a variety of diversified governance structures at a local, basin, national and transnational level. Secondly, it focuses on the development of participatory planning and the implementation process. It, therefore, calls for the involvement of decision-makers across the various sectors and stakeholders, who represent a designated group or sector of society, to set policy and make sound, balanced decisions in response to specific water challenges. Thirdly, IWRM tends to move away from command- and-control instruments that focus on supply-side water management, such as large– 3 scale water infrastructure, towards incorporating demand-side management with economic instruments such as water pricing. When it comes to India, as mentioned above country has introduced institutional reform in the form of IWRM and is keen to adopt this approach as a way forward to solve its water-related problems. So far, some initiatives have been taken in the form of introducing the pilot project at the state level and policy legislation. However, despite these efforts, a success story is yet to be recorded. With regard to India, the main question is, what are the realities on the ground in the Indian context to promote the successful initiation and implementation of IWRM? Is the situation on the ground conducive to successfully implementing IWRM into practice? Here ground realities refer to the existing legal framework in the water sector in India. To find the answer to all these questions, this research project was set up to investigate the application of IWRM in India, specifically from a legal perspective. Each principle of IWRM has been studied to see whether the existing legal framework supports the application of IWRM at national and state levels in practice or not. After a deep legal analysis, findings reveal that a number of changes need to be introduced in the existing legislation at the national and state level to ensure the effective implementation of IWRM in the water sector in India. Firstly, regarding the principle of public participation, both national and state-level legislative frameworks have failed to recognise the role of water users in water management in line with IWRM. the principle of public participation in IWRM requires the involvement of all stakeholders from planning to management. However, the National Water Policy 2012, which is a significant document for the introduction of the participatory approach in the water sector, has merely refereed to public consultation. Further, the term beneficiaries and stakeholders used in the policy is very unclear about what stakeholder means. In addition, the water sector is also lacking national comprehensive legislation, particularly in the case of irrigation water management, which has a direct impact on the role of farmers. The ambiguities in the national framework have directly impacted the state legislation. Moreover, when it comes to decentralised decision making which means involving all governance bodies from the local, basin, and national to the transnational level. The findings revealed that there are challenges arising from both the Indian constitution and national water policy that has made the lowest level of governance bodies subject to the control of the state government. As a result, the role of local government bodies is highly impacted, and cannot be said that decentralised decision-making has been implemented in line with IWRM. Besides legislative provisions, gaps in the informative mechanisms were also found which has a direct impact on the participation of stakeholders. Further, the findings reveal that the principle of water pricing has been introduced in the water sector in India. However, when it comes to its implementation, it is far from reaching its goal. Several challenges have been identified in the form of poor legislation, bureaucratic control, lack of recognition of water as a resource, etc.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:38717
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:20 Jun 2023 13:39
Last Modified:20 Jun 2023 13:39


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