Current General Studies Magazine: "General Studies - III (Environment and Bio-diversity Based Article)" August 2014

Current General Studies Magazine (August 2014)

General Studies - III (Environment and Bio-diversity Based Article)

National Water Policy of India

Water is a prime natural resource, a basic human need and a precious national asset Planning and development of water resources need to be governed by national perspectives. Water is one of the most crucial elements in developmental planning. As the country prepares itself to enter the 21st century, effect to develop, conserve, utilise and manage this important resource have to be guided by national perspectives. The need for a national water policy is thus abundantly clear : water is a scarce and precious national resource to be planned, developed and conserved as such, and on an integrated and environmentally sound basis, keeping in view the needs of the State concerned.

National Water Policy is formulated by the Ministry of Water Resources of the Government of India to govern the planning and development of water resources and their optimum utilization. The first National Water Policy was adopted in September, 1987. It was reviewed and updated in 2002 and later in 2012.

India accounts for 15% of the world population and about 4% of the world’s water resources. One of the solutions to solve the country’s water woes is to link the rivers.

India has been successful in creating live water storage capacity of about 253 billion cubic meter(BCM) so far. In a first, the ecological needs of river have also been taken into consideration.

Salient features

The major provisions under the policy are:

1. Envisages to establish a standardized national information system with a network of data banks and data bases
2. Resource planning and recycling for providing maximum availability
3. To give importance to the impact of projects on human settlements and environment.
4. Guidelines for the safety of storage dams and other water-related structures
5. Regulate exploitation of groundwater
6. Setting water allocation priorities in the following order: Drinking water, Irrigation, Hydropower, Navigation, Industrial and other uses.
7. The water rates for surface water and ground water should be rationalized with due regard to the interests of small and marginal farmers.

The policy also deals with participation of farmers and voluntary agencies, water quality, water zoning, conservation of water, flood and drought management, erosion etc.

National Water Policy 2012

The main emphasis of National Water Policy 2012 is to treat water as economic good which the ministry claims to promote its conservation and efficient use.This provision intended for the privatization of water-delivery services is being criticized from various quarters. The policy also does away with the priorities for water allocation mentioned in 1987 and 2002 versions of the policy. The policy was adopted with a disapproval from many states.


1. Emphasis on the need for a national water framework law, comprehensive legislation for optimum development of inter-State rivers and river valleys, amendment of Irrigation Acts, Indian Easements Act, 1882, etc.

2. Water, after meeting the pre-emptive needs for safe drinking water and sanitation, achieving food security, supporting poor people dependent on agriculture for their livelihood and high priority allocation for minimum eco-system needs, be treated as economic good so as to promote its conservation and efficient use.

3. Ecological needs of the river should be determined recognizing that river flows are characterized by low or no flows, small floods (freshets), large floods and flow variability and should accommodate development needs. A portion of river flows should be kept aside to meet ecological needs ensuring that the proportional low and high flow releases correspond in time closely to the natural flow regime.

4. Adaptation strategies in view of climate change for designing and management of water resources structures and review of acceptability criteria has been emphasized.

5. A system to evolve benchmarks for water uses for different purposes, i.e., water footprints, and water auditing be developed to ensure efficient use of water. Project financing has been suggested as a tool to incentivize efficient & economic use of water.

6. Setting up of Water Regulatory Authority has been recommended. Incentivization of recycle and re-use has been recommended.

7. Water Users Associations should be given statutory powers to collect and retain a portion of water charges, manage the volumetric quantum of water allotted to them and maintain the distribution system in their jurisdiction.

8. Removal of large disparity in stipulations for water supply in urban areas and in rural areas has been recommended.

9. Water resources projects and services should be managed with community participation. Wherever the State Governments or local governing bodies so decide, the private sector can be encouraged to become a service provider in public private partnership model to meet agreed terms of service delivery, including penalties for failure.

10. Adequate grants to the States to update technology, design practices, planning and management practices, preparation of annual water balances and accounts for the site and basin, preparation of hydrologic balances for water systems, and benchmarking and performance evaluation.

Merits and demerits of the National water policy, 2012 :


  • The policy deserves accolade for its ecological, climate change and conservational perspective.
  • Growing water conflicts warrant a permanent ” Water dispute tribunal”, which is taken care off .
  • Underpricing of electricity is no doubt a reason for wastage of both water and electricity.


  • The policy sees water as a community resource, but also treats water as an economic good which is contradictory.
  • Instead of giving incentives for recycle and reuse of water is in the favor of industries , strict enforcement of punitive laws to punish those industries that neglect water and pollute it should be the ideal option
  • Water issues are very sensitive and unless proper understanding among people within states and inter states is created, conflicts will continue to occur.

Question :

  1. Enumerate the National Water Policy of India. Taking river Ganges as an example, discuss the strategies which may be adopted for river water pollution control and management. What are the legal provisions of management and handling of hazardous wastes in India? (200 words)

  2. Discuss Merits and demerits of the National water policy, 2012. (200 words)

To Get Full Material of This Magazine Join General Studies - 3 Online Course

Click Here to Join Online Coaching for IAS Mains General Studies - I, II, III & IV (Combo)

<< Go Back To Main Page