A National Framework for India's Water Policy

Publication Type:



R4, NIAS, Number 978-81-87663-85-0, Bangalore (2009)




As India plans for an expanded economic future, its expectations are jeopardized for want of a unifying national water policy. Formulating such a policy is a daunting task. In a technological world, sustained equitable water management to meet diverse needs of all segments of society demands a coming together of the best available scientific knowledge, avowed human values of democracy and social justice, and a will to adapt governance to complex interactions between ineluctable earth processes and human society. Therefore, a rational policy on water has necessarily to start with an overarching framework that recognizes the attributes of the remarkable natural phenomenon we call water, the physical limits of India?s water endowments governed by these attributes, and the imperatives of civilized adaptation of India?s citizens to the constraints imposed by immutable laws of nature that govern its dynamic. Such a framework will ideally lay down certain broad principles that will guide the crafting of laws, statutes, regulations, and conventions despite the spatial and temporal variability in water occurrence around the country. This paper presents such a unifying framework by placing India?s water endowments in the context of the hydrological cycle, and perspectives of legal and cultural traditions that facilitate a just adaptation of society to a sharing of common resource vital for the survival of all living things. Comprehending the nature of water and civilized living within these constraints requires a harmonious coming together of all branches of human knowledge from the sciences to the humanities.


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