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States must have a say in river deals: water policy draft

Having burnt its fingers over the Teesta river water agreement with Bangladesh,that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stalled

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi | Published: February 2, 2012 2:39:59 am

Having burnt its fingers over the Teesta river water agreement with Bangladesh,that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stalled,the draft National Water Policy (NWP) envisages “consultative association with riparian states” while negotiating such deals over trans-boundary rivers.

“Negotiations over sharing and management of water of international rivers should be done on a bilateral basis in consultative association with riparian states,keeping paramount national interest,” the policy says,asking the government to establish appropriate mechanisms at the Centre for this.

The draft policy was put in the public domain Tuesday,inviting comments from the public before it could be finalised.

The suggestion marks a departure from the time-tested Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan,where negotiation with the riparian state concerned (Jammu and Kashmir) was not a must,though at an informal level,J&K has been kept in the loop.

The draft water policy also suggests that the government consider establishing a “permanent Water Disputes Tribunal” at the Centre in place of the existing mechanism of different tribunals for different inter-state water disputes.

Underlining the need to treat water as an “economic good”,the policy urges governments to put a price on its usage to promote efficiency. “While the practice of administered prices may have to be continued,economic principles need to increasingly guide the administered prices,” the policy lays down.

The policy also advocates setting up of a “Water Regulatory Authority” in each state,to be vested with powers to “fix and regulate the water tariff system”,“regulate allocations,monitor operations,review performance and suggest policy changes” along with assisting the state government in resolving intra-state disputes.

Besides,the policy envisages state governments relinquishing their role as “service providers” to the private sector through PPP models and becoming “regulators of services”,working on better management of water resources.

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