PPP in irrigation projects, user charges, new law necessary to mitigate impending crisis
At a time when experts are warning that increasing water scarcity in the country is posing a major threat to economic growth and political stability, the 12th five-year plan, which is likely to be cleared by full planning commission on Saturday, will give special thrust to deal with the issue.
Among the proposal being worked on is levy of user charges for water and private sector participation is irrigation projects. Other measures include improving data collection, establishing national monitoring authority, encouraging dry land farming, drip irrigation and new legal framework for water, particularly on the use of ground water resources.
The 12th Plan will also evolve a strategy on recharging overexploited aquifers and strengthening sewage system, particularly in semi-urban and rural areas.
“Water is going to be a major area of focus…if one asks me what is the mantra of 12th five-year plan, it is going to be how to tackle the water problem, which has reached a crisis level,” a government official, in the know of developments, told Financial Chronicle. Health is a major issue that arises out of impure water. Water-borne diseases are rampant in India and nearly two lakh villages are affected by contaminated water. Besides, quality of ground water, accounting for 85 per cent of domestic supply, is very poor. The 12th Plan will lay special emphasis on the healthcare aspect of water by roping in private sector companies through the PPP model, the official said.
Another area of focus would be on improvement in governance so that plan projects are implemented effectively. For the first time, the approach paper to the 12th Plan has devoted one full chapter on governance. Implementation has been a major concern, particularly in social sector projects.
Over Rs 3,00,000 crore is spent on poverty alleviation and rural development programmes every year. Former prime minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi had famously said that only 17 paise of every rupee spent reached actual beneficiary. Since then, that’s the commonly accepted ballpark for government spending reaching the intended target.
The 12th Plan approach to tackling water problem would be largely based on new water resource strategy, being worked out by planning commission member Mihir Shah, to make the sector more sustainable, efficient and focused. Shah had said during the global water summit in Rome last May that if the water problem was not attended to “India’s growth story would completely go off the rails.”
In the list of 122 countries rated on quality of water, India ranks 120. Although India has four per cent of the world’s water, the average availability is shrinking steadily and by 2020, India will become a water-stressed nation.