Sunday, April 27, 2008

Evaluating Draft Punjab State Water Policy




State Water Policy debate Paper - 1

National Water Policy, 2002 retains the control over water resources with the government and ignores the involvement of local communities. It remains inert and ineffectual because it fails to ensure community management despite being hit by water shortages due to unsustainable exploitation of rivers and centralized water resource management. National Water Policy was adopted in 1987. It claims that since then, a number of issues and challenges have emerged in the development and management of the water resources. Therefore, the National Water Policy (1987) has been reviewed and updated in 2002.

It was happened in Punjab .The first draft September 1996 of the state water policy has totally ignored the stake of ecology and wild life on water, as it is a gift of nature to earth for the survival of life, which includes flora and fauna apart from human beings. Hence must ensure traditional systems like ponds for the conservation of water, which have been totally given go- bye in Punjab state Water Policy.

Punjab has its Second draft of Water policy in 2004. This new draft is again missing the important component of people’s perceptions and aspirations. Any policy in Punjab, must address the real threats of abusive water exploitation by the industrial and agriculture consumer, especially when 108 out of 137 developmental blocks are over exploited including, four critical blocks. Commercialization of water, entrance of big corporate houses like Price Water House Cooper in the water management related projects of urban as well as rural areas, and implementation of WTO are the other fears & qualms expressed by the civil society groups. State water policy draft was circulated in 2004 is virtually a copy of the National Water Policy and is full of deficiencies with anti people consequences.

As per the spirit of constitution, a welfare state is supposed to formulate pro-people policies and implement these policies at every cost. State Water Policy has been formulated and developed by the state government without any consultation with civil society groups ignoring public opinion. Kheti Virasat Mission is of the firm belief that a wide debate with all inclusive participation by communities, civil society groups, PRIs, academia, scientists, economists, politicians, farmers’ groups, women groups and of course government departments must be started in order to build up an issue about the importance of this policy for the Punjab.

With this view KVM proposes first paper as a food for thought, written by eminent environmental economist Dr M S Rathore, from IDS Jaipur, who has done critical analysis of National Water Policy 2002.

KVM welcomes suggestions, inputs and critical comments on this paper.

With regards

Umendra Dutt


Gaps in Punjab State Water Policy


The State Water Policy document outlines the government’s framework for the long term sustainable development and management of water resources in the state. It emphasizes on: (a) introduction of legislation for regulating ground water; (b) improvement in the efficiency and productivity of water utilisation for irrigation, domestic and industry; (c) monitoring and regulatory measures to enhance water quality at the sources and minimise pollution at the outlet; (d) preparation of flood control, drainage and drought management plans; (e) progressive handing over of management to the users; and (f) to achieve these objectives the state is strategizing to formulate participatory approach whereby all users and polluters whether from the public or private sectors are involved to bring out the desired results.

The state policy will enable the Government of Punjab to carry out adequate measures to preserve its water resources. The major water problems in the state highlighted in the policy document are:

  • declining ground water table, presence of salinity, fluoride and iron
  • pollution of surface and ground water leading to high incidence of water borne diseases, particularly among young children
  • water logging and salinity
  • flood hazards
  • use of excessive fertilizers and chemicals in water causing water pollution,
  • Industrial pollution and inadequate sewerage system and treatment plants in urban areas.

In order to address the above listed problems, the policy document has outlined seventeen objectives and detailed strategies. Of them the major strategy is to create and to divide Punjab State into six hydrological units for better water resource management. To facilitate this, the state has listed creation of a 4-tier system of government bodies, viz.:

  1. Punjab State Water Resources Council (PSWRC)
  2. Punjab State Water Resources Committee (PSWRC)
  3. Punjab State Water Resource Technical Advisory Committee (PSWRTAC)
  4. Regional Water Resources Technical Advisory Committee (RWRTAC).

These ideas of new organisational structures at local and state level is excellent and bold step provided there is a serious political will and administrative capacity to make reforms in the present departmental set up and given socio-political milieu. As it will require resolving inter-departmental conflicts and inter- personal conflicts between technical/non-technical personnel’s. The composition of these advisory committees seems to be good except that there is no place for social and technical experts/researchers and NGO and civil society representatives. Since this will be first of its kind in the country, the reform has to be carefully carried out so that its success is ensured.

The Action Plan is given on pages 8-23 b picking up items from the National Water Policy. The gaps and clarification on each is discussed below. The second part of the draft policy document provides comparison of the National Water Policy with the changed Punjab Water Policy. For each item in the National Water Policy there is either a changed item in the State Water Policy or endorsing the same as in the National Policy. This itself is a problem as the National Water Policy is framed, as per the constitution, to guide the respective State Government’s to formulate their own water policies, i.e. the national water policy should be treated as a guideline and not to be verbatim adopted by the State. Hence, the first part of the Punjab State Water Policy document, the listed water problems specific to the State should be addressed in the second half of the policy document. It is not necessary to even maintain the same sequence or address all the items in National Water Policy.

The State Water Policy document outlines the government's development framework for the long-term sustainable development and management of water resources in the State. It emphasizes on: (a) multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, water planning, allocation and management, (b) establishment of a regulatory framework for managing water resources, including the full range of sector environment issues, (c) reorientation of government water institutions, coupled with increased participation of the private sector through farmer managed WUAs and other private sector entities,. However, there are major gaps in the State Water Policy document if it is analysed in the context of the objectives and the existing water problems faced by the society. The gaps become all the more significant if the intent of the policy are not clear and are not understood in the same light and sprit down the line by implementing agencies. Some of the gaps are discussed below.

The state water policy contradicts the basic premise of the sectoral reform by not clearly mentioning the decentralization of water resources management while aiming at people’s participation. This shows the intentions and nature of state of centralized command and control. It also shows complete lack of will in case of groundwater regulations even after lots of debate and discussion on the Groundwater Bill at various level, no time bound intentions or action are suggested.

The State Water Policy lacks long-term water vision to address the serious emerging problems, both in the rural and urban areas. Given the nature and extent of water available the State should re-define and formulate different sectoral policies keeping water saving in agriculture and controlling water pollution in urban and rural areas as its focal point.

The other important issue is about the process of policy formulation. None of the stakeholders directly concern were involved in the process of formulation of water policy. It is surprising that even most of the people’s representatives along with NGOs are unaware of the water policy document. May be because it is not available to public at large. Also it was never published in newspaper, even though water is a basic good and all living being on this earth, of course people of Punjab are affected by it. This further confirms the intentions of the state in not seeking stakeholders’ participation in water sector reform in the State.

Gender Issues in Water Resource Management

The Punjab Water Policy text is gender neutral in terms of descriptions. It uses several generic terms, i.e. farmers, water users, human lives, settlement etc. The recognition that development actors are both women and men, that they are constrained in different and often unequal way and that they may have differing, and sometimes-conflicting needs, interests and priorities, seems to be missing. The state water policy is gender blind.

The role of women in water resource management at household level and farm level is well recognized. However, when it comes to policy document it is almost missing. Even the present policy of decentralizing management of irrigation systems by handing over systems to Water Users Associations (WUAs) does not mention women representatives on the associations. An analysis of gender division of labour within the household reveals that fetching water is the main responsibility of women. Sexual harassment at water point is quite common.

The State Water Policy document is analysed point by point and the gaps identified are reported below:

  1. In the policy document mentions (page 6) “As an initial step, Punjab State will be divided into six hydrological units of water resource regions” all are given equal weightage, as also the case in National Water Policy and all other state’s policies, no region specific strategy is mentioned. May be it is assumed that the proposed 4-tier institutions will take care of the location specificities. Generally the regional issues are not addressed unless specified. Unless eco-system approach is adopted it will be difficult to conserve, utilize efficiently and sustain the natural resources, particularly water resources. Infect, land, water and vegetation are all naturally linked to each other and, therefore, system approach to deal with the natural resources should be the first item in the NRM policy including water policy.

The objectives listed on pages 4 and 5 are not addressed in the subsiquent sections in the same sprit and weightage.

2. The NRM policies, till now, were more to establish and maintain the centralized control and management of the State over resources. The present policy document does intend to partially decentralize the management of water in the State. However, the issues of ownership and control over natural resources are unattended in the policy document. Unless this is addressed the management will lead to more conflicts among stakeholders.

3 Information System: State is planning to have a well-developed information system (item 6.3, page 17) but do not address few fundamental questions such as:

a. Data/Information for whom? (As the nature, frequency and coverage is directly related to the user)

· For policy makers, policy analysts

· For technical persons, i.e. engineers

· For farmers, NGO’s

As the needs, capacity and purpose of use varies according to the client.

b. Objectives of the data collection.

c. Access to data, or people have to exercise the ‘Right to Information Law’ to obtain the data.

d. Meteorological data is key to successful planning of water resources and there is strong need to improve it. Infact, given the high rainfall variability in the State it is advisable even to go for village level rainguage stations.

4. Project Planning: Institutional and procedural reforms are proposed in future project planning but no mention is made of the rehabilitation policy. Rehabilitation policy should be part of the project right from the beginning. Oustees should be rehabilitated in the command area only, before completion of the project.

5. Maintenance and Modernization: The future policy is to turn over of the system, i.e., the project be handed over to ‘Water User Association’. It is well established that top down approach has failed, and chances are more when recipients are not prepared for the transfer. HRD reforms will not work until they are linked to reward and punishment policy. Administrative reforms supporting HRD policy be carried out simultaneously.

6. Ground Water Development: The geophysical conditions, quantity and quality of groundwater vary across regions, therefore, differential strategy has to be adopted. Past experience shows that there is lack of political will to regulate groundwater. It is difficult to bring out meaningful Ground Water legislation and then implement it through governmental agencies. There has to be multiple strategy to deal with the grave situation, i.e. there is immediate need to put a check on withdrawal rate of groundwater. Irrigation is the main use of groundwater and farmers lobby is so strong that State failure is clearly visible.

There is a strong need to integrate economic policy, agricultural policy, industrial policy with the groundwater policy. Groundwater can not be independently dealt with. Also there are few terms, such as, social equity, require clear definition on the part of the State, so that there is similar understanding down the line in the executing agency.

8 Water Allocation Priorities: The major question is what is the basis or rationale of drawing these priorities? Is it economic, or social, political or adhoc? The given priorities apply only to bulk surface water storage tanks, and canals. Groundwater, which is mostly privately owned and controlled, is out of the preview of this priority. Even industrial demand is also met from groundwater. How this policy of prioritizing water allocation will work? If it doesn’t apply to groundwater than the major crisis, because most groundwater is used for irrigation, leading to fast depletion of water tables. The important issue is of source wise allocation priority.

9 Drinking Water: Policy is completely silent on the issue of urban-rural conflict over sharing of water resources. There should be clear policy on priority and preference in drinking water supply to rural and urban population. If water is transferred / supplied from rural to urban areas than how to compensate rural population be mentioned. Also there is no mention about how to ensure equal access to water particularly to poor and marginalized sections. There should be clear guidelines for each source of drinking water supply for its ownership and use.

There are bad experiences of privatization of urban water supply services in different parts of the world, before suggesting this policy a careful review should be undertaken. Some Public-Private partnership model be evolved and tested in Punjab before giving clean chit for privatization.

Clear guideline be given as how the quality of drinking water will be handled. There are successful efforts in dealing with fluoride and other pollutants problems, those be taken note off before finalizing any policy.

10 Irrigation Water: There is a basic problem in understanding the irrigation issues and that is the reason for not finding clarity in irrigation water policy. The major policy questions are:

i. Extensive v/s intensive irrigation

ii. Protective v/s productive irrigation

iii. Productivity, per unit of land or water

iv. Sources of irrigation; large v/s small dams, traditional v/s modern dams or structures

v. Objective of water saving through drip or sprinkler or change in cropping pattern

vi. How to regulate use of water on farm?

vii. On and off farm efficiency in water

viii. Equity in distribution of water. Warabandi ensures only limited equity in water distribution

ix. How it is in line with the agricultural policy or other sectoral policies of the state?

x. Demand side v/s supply side management issues.

All these need to be clearly addressed in this section.

11. Water Rates: It is a welcome step to include demand side management in the Water Policy. But certain things need clarity right from the beginning. These are:

i. What is the objective of increasing water rates? To increase efficiency in water use, change in production system (cropping pattern), improve economic viability of the canal or irrigation system?

ii. Think in the context of new economic policy, WTO and status of our farmers vis-à-vis rest of the world and decide about water rates.

iii. Maintain parity between agriculture and industry i.e. terms of trade, while fixing water rates, as it will directly affect agricultural output prices.

iv. If surface water (irrigation water) and drinking water is privatized how to ensure fair prices to marginal and small farmers or poor rural and urban consumers.

12 Participation of Water Users: It is restricted to irrigation sector only. As there is plan to have River Basin Approach to Water Resources Planning no mention is made of representation of people on Water Resource Authority, River Basin Authority, etc.. However, participation without decentralization of power i.e., ownership and control over resources has no meaning.

13 Water Zoning: Unless the proposed zones are linked to the overall strategy of water resources management it will create more confusion. The proposed zones are overlapping and crosscutting, so how to resolve this issue? River Basin Zones is not mentioned but will this be made the basis for all the planing and strategies? More elaboration is needed on what will be the strategy for each of these zones and who will implement it.

14 Water Conservation: What is given is the role of state in conservation of water but what the different stakeholders are supposed to do is not mentioned. PRIs, NGO and people can play important role in conservation of water resources need special mention.

In case of domestic water supply distribution losses particularly in the urban supply is substantial and can be checked with little efforts, need mention in the policy. Similarly, in agricultural sector on and off farm efficiency is of outmost importance. Some mention is needed of the traditional conservation practices and those should be encouraged. Conservation through public awareness is a very important component and their involvement is must. The policy document needs to be widely distributed and debated across the state.

15 Drought Management: Water is critical input in drought management. Invariably drought leads to drying up of surface water sources. Groundwater storage is the best to deal with drought conditions. Therefore, the policy should be to conserve groundwater storage and use as buffer stock for drought years. Present sectoral policies in fact encourage maximum use of groundwater resources. On the contrary, the policy should be to check the use of groundwater and in the next step recharge groundwater.

Traditional services are found to be serving even today during drought periods so those be protected and maintained. Local coping strategies to fight with drought need to be strengthened special policy measures. Finally, water security should be the first objective of the state in the drought prone area and this should be mentioned as the basic policy objective of the State.

There were large number of water bodies in most villages of Punjab, those are either used as waste dumping ground or encroached for housing and other use, or their catchment areas are blocked so no water comes in them, etc. There is need for special plan for rejuvenating these water bodies to ensure the future of groundwater in the state.

16 Training and Education: Training should be important component of the restructuring plan of the water sector reforms in the state. However, its success will largely depend on the attitude of the state employees working in water related departments, mostly in the Irrigation and PHED. Presently training is not linked to their promotion or posting so it is considered to be a punishment. Even the postings in the water related training institutions is considered to be a punishment posting. Therefore, the importance of training needs to be established first before any policy actions.

PHED Policy

The main objective of the drinking water supply departments policy is "Universal access to safe drinking water covering all villages and habitation". However it is nowhere explained what they mean by universal access, is it to villages and scattered settlements, marginalised section of population, equal access, etc.? Also what is the notion of safe water; is it the fluoride and brackish water people are drinking is considered to be safe, polluted water in urban areas, etc.? Also no mention is made of how to ensure access to water by all sections of population, particularly poor and marginalized section as even today there are large number of people not allowed to have water from wells, village pond, Bawri or different drinking water sources. Untouchability is widely practiced.

State has a differential norm providing safe drinking water to the rural and urban population based on the life style, available technology, and complexities in managing high-density urban population. Rural drinking water issues are classified under four broad categories, namely, coverage, level of supply, quality of water and sustainability of supply. In all these aspects the source of supply play important role. In the X Plan the major thrust will be to switch over from ground water to surface water wherever it is possible. It is because of depletion of groundwater and quality of groundwater.

For urban areas major emphasis will be on improving distribution system to minimize losses through rectification of leakage, prevention of pollution through old and defective pipelines, rejuvenation of WTP and pumpsets, reduction of unaccounted water etc. Also besides the conventional supply side management approach there will be greater emphasis on demand side management. Recognizing pricing of water as an important instrument of demand management will do this and tariffs will be designed accordingly. Water pollution is considered a threat and measures will be taken to check misuse and pollution of drinking water sources. Concern is also shown about water conservation and reuse. Economic incentives, laws and regulations, and public awareness are the measures proposed to deal with the problem. State failure in universal access to drinking water through centralised modern systems is evident. In the process traditional systems of drinking water have been severely eroded, thrown into disuse and even eliminated in most parts. Still there are areas and population not covered by the present system dependent on traditional sources. One of the reason for this neglect was government's emphasis and open bias in favour of large, complex and costly systems with low capital efficiency ensuring that the power and authority stays with the bureaucracy and the community remains bonded to it (PHED, p.6). On the other hand traditional systems use low cost, user-friendly techniques and were easily kept in good operational condition by local communities. The shift in the policy is that if drinking water supply in rural Rajasthan has to be sustainable, equitable and community based, then the traditional systems have to be rejuvenated and developed along with the modern systems.