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About this book

This book, the second volume in the series, continues to raise contextual issues and presents perspectives regarding multifaceted challenges in management and governance of water in India. This volume attempts to broad base and expand the dialogue started in the first volume and would touch upon issues that need immediate discussion but have been left unattended like politics and management of groundwater, efficient utilization of water in agriculture (irrigation) and improving water use efficiency and building resilience. As in the first volume, this book presents a set of suggestions and recommendations in each chapter that can help frame policy guidelines in the country.

Table of Contents


Catalysing Groundwater Governance Through People’s Participation and Institutional Reform

India’s groundwater usage is the largest in the world. Nearly, all sectors, especially rural domestic water and water in agriculture, have large-scale dependencies on groundwater resources. Groundwater exploitation, without due consideration to the concept of aquifers as common pool resources, has led to the dual problem of groundwater depletion and contamination. Groundwater depletion has also led to depletion in river flow. Competition over groundwater resources has slowly emerged as a complex problem across India’s diverse aquifer typology, sometimes leading to conflict. The rise in the number of wells across the small land holdings in India has meant that groundwater extraction occurs at high granularity, making it difficult for large-scale data and information to capture the reality of problems of the ground. The social, economic and environmental consequences of groundwater over-extraction in India is as much related to the variability in the transmission and storage properties of different aquifers as it is about the diversity in the social context of people who use groundwater resources. Community-based norms on managing groundwater resources have been one of the emergent areas of responding to the crisis of groundwater management in the field. Policy, on the other hand, has been toying with conventional regulatory responses, mainly through groundwater legislation. The gap between the policy and practice of groundwater management is quite wide and requires a combination of groundwater management and governance. Institutionalizing the integration of groundwater management and governance, although seemingly challenging, has become crucial in addressing India’s groundwater crises. Combining demystified science, people’s participation and institutional reform to bring to the fore the concept of aquifers as common pool resources can form a solid foundation for catalysing groundwater governance in India.
Himanshu Kulkarni, Dhaval Joshi, Uma Aslekar, Siddharth Patil

Sustainable Urban Water Management Strategies

India is suffering a very significant water crisis with economic growth, livelihoods, human well-being, as well as ecological sustainability at stake. The macro-water availability and numbers are unsettling; India is home to ~17% of world’s population but has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. Evidence also suggests that, 11 out of 20 largest cities in India face an extreme risk of water stress and the per capita water supply is considerably lower than the per capita demand. A closer look at cropping patterns in the Indian states also reveals a frightening inefficiency and suboptimal planning that is causing most water-related problems, including depletion of the groundwater tables at an alarming rate. The bigger issue here is that the scarcity of water resources has many cascading effects including desertification, risk to biodiversity, industry, energy sector and risk of exceeding the carrying capacity of urban hubs. With a country generating 140 BCM of wastewater annually, mismanagement of wastewater which also contaminates groundwater, lack of liquid waste management, poor sanitation conditions and poor hygiene habits has contributed to a major portion of population suffering from water-borne diseases (Strategy for New India @ 75 (NITI Aayog 2018), p. 102, https://​niti.​gov.​in/​writereaddata/​files/​Strategy_​for_​New_​India.​pdf). Water scarcity can seem difficult to full grasp, given the dichotomous ways in which water is affecting habitations. To tackle the complex water challenge facing India, it is imperative to take a holistic view of water, starting with the hydrological system, the interactions of this system with climate change on the one hand, and with human factors across agriculture, industrial and energy production activity on the other. Thus, this chapter identifies the issues and challenges in managing water sustainably, explores the various Government initiatives on water management and recommends a holistic strategy for water demand management.
Kulwant Singh, Sajib Mahanta

Estimating Efficiency of Public Investment in Irrigation at the State Level in India

An attempt is made to measure the relative efficiency of public investment in irrigation across major states in India from 1981–82 to 2015–16. We find a sizeable increase in public expenditure on irrigation and improvement in capital intensity in the last one decade. However, agriculture continues to receive a low priority in the public policy vis-à-vis its importance in the national economy. Also, an upturn in capital and revenue expenditure does not commensurate with an increase in the irrigation intensity, reflecting considerable inefficiencies. On an average, public canals have operated at about 59% technical efficiency in recent years, although levels vary widely from 9.6% in Andhra Pradesh to 100% each in Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. The inefficiency is largely due to capital expenditure, which needs to be utilised properly through faster completion of projects. Low efficiency scores may also suggest that public irrigation is not well placed, suggesting need for its better management and to explore potential for other sources of irrigation.
Seema Bathla, Elumalai Kannan, Gautam Kumar Das, Roopali Aggarwal

Tackling Water Quality Issues

For India, the challenges are twofold: One is to address the growing water shortage, and the other is to address quality issues. Ample evidence points toward increasing deterioration of water quality. Both surface and groundwater sources are contaminated through point and nonpoint pollution sources, and biological and chemical pollutants. Consuming contaminated water has health implications which can be inter-generational. Improving water quality is going to need a basket of options ranging from policy-level interventions and its implementation, real-time data that informs decision making, preventive and mitigative technologies, enforcement and public awareness, participation and oversight.
Indira Khurana, Romit Sen

Wetlands and Water Management: Finding a Common Ground

Wetlands, ecosystems at the interface of land and water, have a significant role in ensuring water and climate security of India given their role in the water cycle and multiple hydrological functions. The rapid loss of natural wetlands as has been experienced lately is as much a threat to water and climate security, as is an environmental crisis. The supply-side hydrology which characterized water sector for long has tended to overlook this role of wetlands, and at several instances, in an attempt to ‘develop’ these ecosystems, created several adverse ecological and socio-economic impacts. With broadening of thinking on water resources management from run-off to precipitation-based management incorporating land use, the role of ecosystems such as wetlands in building water system resilience becomes highly significant in Indian context. Forging ‘natural infrastructure’ of wetlands with the conventional ‘physical infrastructure’ of water resources can bring multiple advantages to the water sector and provide the required flexibility to address climate change-induced uncertainties and risks. Using catchment as a planning unit and a harmonized understanding of wetlands and their hydrological functions is the foundation step for collaboration between water and wetlands sectors. Communication between the two sectors can be bridged by wetlands managers articulating water needs and hydrological functions of wetlands in terms useful to water sector, and the latter, incorporating wetlands as nature-based solutions for meeting water management objectives.
Ritesh Kumar, Harsh Ganapathi, Santosh Palmate

Data Usage for Development, Management of Water Resources

Challenges in water development and management are many and well known. With population growth, urbanization and industrialization, the challenges in water management are getting more complex. Likely impacts of climate change would, undoubtedly, add to these complexities. Unlike other resources, water management poses additional challenge of randomness of occurrence and distribution in space and time. For a geographical and meteorologically diverse country like India, many issues and concerns cannot be handled properly unless efforts are backed by sound data and conclusions drawn there from. Generally, at the planning level, the resource availability of data is of prime concern. However, for efficient management in real time, it is necessary to harness the usage data at the same level of frequency and accuracy as the resource data. Collection and processing of data also assumes prime importance for resource allocation amongst competing political and administrative entities and is the key parameter upon which the entire adjudication process relies. However, this underlying importance is not appreciated by the planning and economic communities in general, and accordingly, the field is rather neglected. The neglect leads to gaps in the data and knowledge base. Multiple jurisdictions and domains delineated by the federal structure of the constitution and governance of the country affect a unified data strategy. Lack of such strategy will lead to wrong priorities in planning and deployment. The chapter describes data requirements, provisions enabling collection and processing and status of availability. New technologies and approaches available for handling constraints generated out of multiple jurisdictions and conflict of interests are also highlighted.
Ashwin B. Pandya

Whither India’s Federal Governance for Long-Term Water Security?

India’s federal governance for long-term water security has not received its due attention. The discourse about federal governance is generally dominated by that of fiscal federalism. The limited work about federal water governance is restricted to interstate river water disputes and their resolution. Poor indicators of national water resources governance do not inspire confidence about its long-term security. The chapter posits that this is an outcome of the federal constituents—the states and the union territories—assuming exclusive powers over water governance. They pursue inward and territorialized strategies for water resources management, leading to conditions akin to a collective action problem to pursue national development and long-term security goals. It is long recognized that the Centre has to play an anchoring role and work with states towards pursuing these goals. Does it have the required leverage to influence states? This chapter, perhaps a first, is a modest effort to address this question. It takes a closer look at the historical changes in budgetary allocations of the Centre and selects states for water resources governance towards an empirical assessment of this leverage. The chapter concludes that the federal water governance in India is weakly structured and poorly nurtured to pursue its national development and long-term sustainability goals.
Srinivas Chokkakula, Prakriti Prajapati


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