ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Resistance to Reforms in Water Governance

This article provides a response to the critique of the Report Submitted by the Committee on Restructuring the CWC and CGWB, by M Dinesh Kumar et al (“New ‘Water Management Paradigm’: Outdated Concepts?” EPW, 9 December 2017). Their critique misrepresents what the report says, and is part of an ongoing attempt to thwart reforms in the governance of India’s water sector, which, in crucial respects, has remained unreformed for the last 70 years. Without these reforms, however, India’s water crisis will only deepen by the day.

It is a curious tale. How is it that an institution set up in 1945 manages to continue virtually unchallenged and unchanged despite so much evidence and such widespread awareness that it has been unable to deliver on its fundamental premise of water security? Why is it that water has still not become a major political issue on which elections are won and lost, despite a water crisis on the ground that only gets deeper by the day?

The Central Water Commission (CWC) was set up in 1945. Ever since independence, it has continued to function unreformed, presiding over a development paradigm based on command-and-control over the rivers of India. The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), set up in 1971, pioneered the deeper search for groundwater, which has relentlessly continued over decades, not always recognising that a major portion of the country’s land mass is underlain by hard rock formations, leading to a situation where both water tables and water quality have declined to dangerous levels today. Even as the objective conditions on the ground, the demands of the economy and society, and our understanding of water have all undergone a sea change, both the CWC and the CGWB continue to function unreformed, still clinging to a long bygone era.

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Updated On : 9th Feb, 2018
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