|Number 6||August 2000|
Water is a domain where governance is vital. This field has high competition between various sectors of use: agriculture, cities, industries, energy, recreational activities... And then there is a predominance of profitability. In fact the quality of water and access to this vital resource is dependent on a management that is local as well as geopolitical.
Water governance must work towards peace and understanding between people because threat to access of water leads to a dangerous world. And all politics related to water have repercussions on climate, food, health, environment, human conflicts within and outside a country or a State.
Water management calls for a close examination and deliberation and is well beyond "access to drinking water", even if this objective is laudable. We must not lose sight of the fact that lack of this precious liquid can lead to poverty much more that thirst and aridity. Lack of water does not only lead to dying of thirst but also of hunger - it takes one thousand litres of water to produce a loaf of bread.
Water is a resource that is common to all human beings.
Water is also an economic and social good.
Water management must take the social aspect into account for no one can be deprived of water because of his/her inability to pay for it.
Water is every human being's right.
All levels of water management are necessary and interdependent.
Transparency and effective and democratic participation - especially of women - must be a part of water management.
Ethics must preside over management and everything pertaining to water.
Management of shared waters, common aquifers, catchment areas, must be reinforced with regional co-operation and an appropriate legal framework that is fair and equal.
An integrated approach of catchment areas must take the needs of irrigation and cities into account jointly and not separately as it is often observed. Well-researched mechanisms must be found in order to save water and increase efficiency in irrigation systems.
In the decision-making regarding water, giving voice to the voiceless at the grassroots level is crucial.
Water management must practice an inverse globalisation keeping solidarity as a base.
Traditional knowledge of communities related to water must be rehabilitated and taken into account in all projects.
Water is not a commodity.
Access to water must call for partnership.
Financial discharge of water must be done by the individual and the community according to principles of responsibility and use while respecting ethics and democracy.
Water management must guided by principles of sustainable development. It must respect the needs of all living beings on the globe and preserve the interest of future generations.
Science and techniques must be at the service of people's needs. They must be applied with due respect to local knowledges by rehabilitating them.
All water management must promote a society that economises on water.
Water management must see to it that there is harmony of values pertaining to water for a better co-operation between peoples. It must articulate different levels of governance in order to ensure compatibility between unity and diversity.
It must promote education and awareness on efficient water management.
The present water famine in India is largely a man made tragedy
We are facing in India one of the worst water famines in our history. Millions of cattle will die before the end of June. Some human beings will also die, but millions of them will be reduced to utter destitution. Three years in a row without rain in some areas. Temperatures in the region are also rising as a result of global warming.
And yet this is largely a man made tragedy. The reduction of forest cover has meant that the area attracts less rain and is progressively desertifying. The silting of tanks and the lack of green cover, even of small shrubs, has meant that water runs off easily and does not percolate into the ground and replenish the aquifers. In some parts the introduction of cash crops has meant that farmers are pumping out so much ground water that the water table is going down at an alarming rate. In one region of south Gujarat, where plentiful quantities of water are available, the ground water is so polluted that it is unfit for human consumption. A number of chemical factories in the region who leak their wastes into the ground are responsible for this catastrophe.
The development process and the modern state in India has seen to it that local management of resources, which was once such a strong tradition, has all but disappeared. In the past the village community desilted the tanks and ensured enough water was stored for the dry months. With the tanks in good repair the village wells seldom went dry. Today, in the villages near Bangalore, which I am familiar with, I see rapacious land-sharks encroaching on the tanks, filling them with garbage and rubble from construction sites, and selling them off as real estate. The result is that the water table around Bangalore has gone down by over 100 feet in the last twenty years.
What I am describing is not pertinent only to India. A similar process is in the making all over the world. A recent United Nations report states that per capita availability of water has gone down by fifty per cent in the last twenty years and will go down by another fifty percent in the next twenty years. What can be more alarming than to realise that water, which we have taken for granted, is very soon going to be very scarce!