Water Crisis: Exploring the Legal and Policy measures

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Water Crisis: Exploring the Legal and Policy measures

Written by: Aayushi Mishra


The supply of safe water is considered as the backbone or support system of the healthy and prosperous nation yet it is woefully under prioritized, globally.   Further looking at the Indian perspective it is estimated that less than 50% of the population only has access to drinking water. Water born diseases impose approximately 600USD burden in the country.

Contaminated water with excess arsenic and fluoride in the country is affecting millions of people.[1] Moreover, there is also an issue of water depletion and the country lacks planning for water safety and water-related issues is the major cause of concern. However, in high time crises government has come up with some planning.

Root causes of India’s water crisis

The population is the major root cause of the water crisis in India. There is insufficient water per person due to rapid growth in population. With a population of 1.2 billion (as per 2011). The country has only 1000 cubic meters of water per person.

Another major cause of water crises is inadequate and late investment in water-treatment facilities. As the Ganga river plan, 1984 was to clean the river in 25 years, even then the conditions of Ganga have worsened instead of its betterment. Yet again the industrial effluent standard has not been implemented.

Furthermore, the over-extraction of underground water by farmers and for domestic purposes with carelessness is another major reason for concern. Also, the water extraction of groundwater is steadily growing day by day.

However, some successful programs at the state or community level have been taken.

The emphasis has been given throughout the country to watershed development. The program main aim increase soil moisture and recharge groundwater.  The 11th five-year plan was focused on watershed development[2]. The effort of the program has shown its effectiveness for example in Alwar district through community-based efforts has turned water harvesting and water management into a model for other areas, also Anna Hazare with the community has transformed his village into a water harvesting and sustainable village. Similarly, the Gujarat government with the help of NGOs have built around 100000 check dams(labelling tapping water and land in small ponds) which has resulted in agricultural GDP growth.

  • a) Setting up of river boards, both within states and interstate, to plan in an integrated way for the development of water resources within a river basin. The necessary legislation should provide for the two-tier constitution of river boards, consisting of the river basin assembly and a supporting technical body. River basin organisations within states can be set up by Government Orders under existing legislation itself. [3]
  • b) Enabling farmers and rural and urban communities to participate fully and effectively in the task of managing water resources. The existing legislative framework, which gives the state complete control over water resources, should be modified to give local communities usufruct rights and a pivotal role in water resource management at the local level.
  • c) Regulation of groundwater so as to prevent and stop the overuse and depletion of groundwater in many areas. The existing law provides for control and ownership of groundwater by the landowner. This should be modified by transferring at least the management of groundwater to the gram sabha and the RWA. The overuse of groundwater should be stopped and regulated by the respective gram sabhas / RWAs, with higher levels of government providing the necessary information, framing rules for the regulation and monitoring the situation.[4]
  • d) Provision of accurate and up to date information on water resources in the public domain in a user-friendly form. This is essential for the rational and integrated planning of water resources in the country, for involving local communities in the task of management of water resources and for the smooth resolution of water-related conflicts between different parties. The Official Secrets Act and the attitudes and practices relating to its interpretation should be modified in order that information on water resources in the country is freely available.

Other recommendations to tackle the water crisis in India?

The 12th 5year plan (2012-2017) has greatly concentrated its attention on water crises and water depletion issues. The plan has also put priority on watershed development, irrigation capacity, and water mapping. With the great help of NGOs, the plans are trying to bring better changes related to these difficulties. It is also noted here that water is a state government subject therefore there is an urgent need by the respective state government to focus on the issues. Furthermore, there is also an urgent need to educate people.

Further Hal shakti abhiyan[5] has also been set up for the water management in the country, these are programs for tackling water crises in India, Also The Government of India have, therefore, formulated a Special Scheme, i.e. “On-farm Water Management Scheme for increasing crop production in the Eastern States” for achieving accelerated growth of groundwater utilization and agricultural development in these States.[6]

However, there are some other recommendations for managing water crises in the country.

It’s is highly suggested that government should try to empower the local groups of the area with the understanding and knowledge and with the real-time data of the groundwater and its causes for depletion. This can help in a cooperative way in the extraction of groundwater. It is seen that groundwater is an open-source of water so there is no limitation of its extraction also people are not very well aware of the problem it’s really faced by them. Therefore the government can regulate this either by limiting the extraction or finding the solution for its not over-extraction

Secondly, the country should encourage watershed development. Watershed development has been very successful so far as the example of watershed development has been set by the Gujarat model, or by Alwar district, or Ralegaon Sidhi. These models suggest that they are not only useful for environmental and climate change but also economically. Moreover, these movements can be carried out at the village and city level and the country can accomplish the goal in a shorter period of time.

Thirdly, environmental education is the most important area to focus on. People must be aware about the action they carry on the environment is how far positively or negatively affecting them.

Fourth, the government should strengthen state pollution control boards to enforce effluent standards. The technical and human resources currently available to the boards are inadequate to effectively monitor activities, enforce regulations, and convict violators.

In addition, adequate sewage treatment facilities must be constructed. Many cities treat only a part, and some no more than half, of the effluent. Cities need to charge a proper price for water so that local sewage work operators have the income and resources to sufficiently maintain treatment plants. If necessary, India should work with private firms to modernize urban water distribution systems.


The country belongs to each individual and not the government initiatives are sufficient in fighting for an environmental-related cause. Climate change and other environmental issues are major concerns for the existence of humanity. There is an urgent need and it’s high time to assume responsibility for our own surroundings and our own concerns.

About the Author

Water Crisis: Exploring the Legal and Policy measures

Aayushi Mishra

Student at Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies, VIPS

[1] Unicef India

[2] 11th five-year plan

[3] niti.gov.in

[4] niti.gov.in

[5] nwm.gov.in

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