PM allays fears, states adopt water policy
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Despite strong objection by several states, the contentious proposal of the Water Resources Ministry to evolve a "broad over-arching national legal framework" of general principles on water would remain in the National Water Policy, which got the all-important consent of the states on Friday.
The government, however, assured it would consult states while formulating the legal framework and enacting a law on river basin management, another contentious proposal.
The National Water Policy would, however, undergo some "modifications" and "adjustments" to address concerns expressed by the states at the National Water Resources Council meeting chaired by PM Manmohan Singh. The PM himself allayed apprehensions on the framework law, saying the Centre "does not wish to encroach, in any manner, upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights of states or to centralise water management".
In his address, he said the "framework would be an umbrella statement of general principles governing the exercise of legislative, executive or devolved powers by the Centre, the states and the local governing bodies" and it should be seen in proper perspective.
"One of the problems in achieving better management is that the current institutional and legal structures dealing with water in our country are inadequate, fragmented and need active reform. It is in this context that a suggestion has been made for a national legal framework of general principles on water, which, in turn, would pave the way for essential legislation on water governance in every state," he said.
Despite the assurance, several states, including Congress-ruled Kerala and Haryana, objecting to the legal framework, saying it would amount to infringing upon the rights of states to legislate on water-related issues as water is a state subject. The proposal to enact a law to establish river basin authorities also was objected to by many states, notable being Punjab which is locked in a water dispute with Haryana.
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