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CM differs on water policy, seeks review of pacts

Ranchi, Dec. 28: Chief minister Arjun Munda today opposed the draft National Water Policy 2012, arguing that water was a state-specific resource that could not be controlled by means of a uniform law.

Addressing the National Water Resources Council meeting in Delhi, Munda said that if the Centre enacted a uniform policy for all states, it would go against the spirit of the Constitution.

He demanded review of inter-state river water agreements, introduction of water engineering branch in engineering colleges and amendments to Forest Conservation Act.

The central government sought the consent of the chief ministers to a water policy a day after the 57th National Development Council meeting in which Munda demanded special status for Jharkhand.

Munda, in his speech today, opined, “Necessary guidelines in tune with the provisions of proposed policy could be given to different state governments and concrete action plans worked out accordingly. We also need to produce experts of integrated water resources management. Currently, civil engineering degree and diploma holders are being engaged in water resources management. A separate water engineering branch may be introduced in engineering colleges.”

He said that there was a difference between use of forestland for construction of dams and for mining operations or setting up industrial units.

Uniform laws on acquisition of forestland delayed execution of projects, in turn leading to escalation of costs. The Centre should therefore formulate a policy that would eliminate possibilities of clashes between provisions of different laws, he said.

Munda added that in Jharkhand, most water agreements were inked in undivided Bihar and were seemingly not in the interest of the young state.

Citing an example, he said that 75 per cent of the catchment areas of the Damodar-Barakar basin is in Jharkhand. DVC’s four major reservoirs — Tilaiya, Maithon, Panchet and Konar — too are in Jharkhand. But the poor state barely gets 25 per cent of the waters available in the dams, he added.

Similarly, Masanjore dam in Mayurakshi basin is fully based in Jharkhand. Its submerged areas too are in Jharkhand. But Jharkhand has no say in its management. Barely 25-30 per cent of the irrigation potential created by this dam belongs to Jharkhand.

“The sharing of Mayurakshi basin waters should be proportional. Problems related to inter-state river basins too should be addressed early. Industrial houses should be asked to invest more in research and development. The use of recycled waters too needs to be taken care of. Only then we will be able to achieve efficient water management,” Munda said.