The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Water model runs aground

New Delhi, Dec 10: The Centre is trying to coax the states into drafting a legislation that will seek to regulate the development of ground water resources in the country but with little success.

“A model Bill has been circulated by the Centre to the states though the response has been lukewarm,” Planning Commission deputy chairman K. C. Pant said at a national seminar on harnessing water resources organised by Ficci here today.

The issue has taken centre-stage especially after a poor monsoon this year forced the government to declare 14 states as drought-affected and cobble a package of measures to ease the burden on farmers that included a deferment of interest payout on loans for this fiscal.

The annual replenishable ground water resources have been assessed at 432 billion cubic metres. Overall water demand has been assessed at 710 billion cubic metres by 2010 and rising to 1180 billion cubic metres by the year 2050, creating a grim water situation for the country.

Pant said private sector investment in the water sector had declined because of apprehensions over the poor rate of return in water utilities. He suggested that water pricing should be adequate to cover not only the operation and maintenance costs but also aim to recover a part of the capital cost. “If we do not then the future generations will have to pay the price,” he added.

He said the ultimate objective was to pass on the full water charges. A beginning in this direction could be made by opening up certain areas like pisciculture in reservoirs, development of tourists spots at dam sites, canal side plantation and so on to the private sector with an appropriate charge.

Prof M. S. Swaminathan said the first half of the year 2003 will be a water emergency year with water and fodder being key areas of concern. He suggested that the Planning Commission should consider a national drought preparedness Act under the Tenth Plan.

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