India’s existing structures of water governance, which focus on constructing supply systems, need a radical transformation to be able to address new challenges. This article points out that the proposed National Water Commission could help by initiating steps that assert crucial aspects of the new culture of water management structures in the country.
This critique assesses if the National Water Framework Bill 2016 and the Mihir Shah Committee report are truly interdisciplinary and based on the principles of integrated water systems governance. The question still remains whether the recommendations are enough to bridge existing gaps and address future challenges in water governance.
While welcoming the Mihir Shah Committee report for seeking to bring about a very important change in the current institutional structure of water management in the country, this article draws attention to some of its major shortcomings. It also observes that some of the report’s recommendations need a word of caution.
Welcoming the debate on the assumptions underpinning water resource monitoring in India triggered by the Mihir Shah Committee report, the authors suggest that the proposed National Water Commission should focus on providing integrated data and science to help water managers and policymakers, avoiding getting directly involved in planning or regulation.
The Mihir Shah Committee report analyses the complexity of the water sector in a finely nuanced manner and understands what needs to be done, but it fails to convince how its ideas could fructify. The report’s prescriptions, executed through a new structure, could fetter the water sector instead of setting it free to innovate.
The Mihir Shah Committee report lays a solid foundation for restructuring water governance in India. Yet, a few supplementary provisions could reinforce the report’s recommendations, nudging the effort towards improved water resources management.
The growing crisis in groundwater availability in India means that the time is ripe for a paradigm shift in the way we think about it. This article reviews recent developments that have opened up exciting opportunities for change, and makes suggestions to address some of the shortcomings of the past.
The Mihir Shah Committee report demands a paradigm shift, bringing the ecosystems perspective to the ways water is governed in India. This article argues that these governance reforms, though essential, are not enough to enable the paradigm shift necessary for sustainability and ecological justice. But it may be a great place to begin.
Describing the tasks proposed for the National Water Commission as visionary, varied, and vast, this article underlines that ensuring high performance, accountability, speedy implementation, and cost effectiveness to India’s water management is a massive challenge. Highlighting three major problem areas, it suggests possible ways forward.
While welcoming the overall thrust of the Mihir Shah Committee report and its suggestion for a National Water Commission of technical experts to assist the states, this article underscores that it does have some blind spots. These would include its non-inclusion of waterbodies and preference for floodplain zoning, among others.