Addressing the opening session of first All India Annual State Ministers’ Conference on Water, the PM stated that it is the responsibility of all to make water a subject of collaboration, coordination, and cooperation between states. The theme of the 1st Conference (organised by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti in Bhopal, MP) is ‘Water Vision @ 2047’.
What is the Status of Water under the Constitution of India?
- Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution —
- Entry 17 of the State List (List II), deals with ‘Water’ which includes – Water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, Water storage and Water power.
- Entry 56 of Union List (List I) empowers the Central Government to regulate and develop inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament in the public interest.
- Article 21 of the Constitution — The constitutional right to access to clean drinking water can be drawn from the right to food, the right to clean environment and the right to health, all of which have been protected under the broad heading of the RIGHT TO LIFE.
- Current status of Water — Hence, for all practical purposes, unless there is an emergency situation, ‘Water’ continues to be a state subject.
What is the Importance of a critical resource like water?
- India has 18% of the world’s population but only 4% of its water resources (total 4,000 BCM through rain, glaciers, etc., out of which only half is usable), which is a fast-depleting natural resource as a result of global warming and wastage.
- Currently, states continue to fight over sharing of river water and as tribunals have taken their own time to settle disputes, people of the concerned states continue to suffer.
- Central Water Commission (CWC), the apex Civil Engineering Organisation is well equipped to standardise various issues. However, ‘Water’ being a state subject, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, through CWC can at best play an advisory role.
- Hence, there have been calls from several quarters to move ‘Water’ from the State list in the Constitution to the Concurrent list for the effective resolution of disputes. The Ashok Chawla panel had recommended that water should be put on the Concurrent List of the Constitution.