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Water Perspectives, issues, concerns

With millions of people across the country virtually deprived of that most basic human right – clean water, this is one issue that is of concern to everyone.

The result of a decade-long meticulous research by Ramaswamy R. Iyer, this book takes a serious look at the socio-political dimensions of water and covers most of the aspects of hydrology from the provisions in the Indian constitution, related administrative and legal issues to interstate disputes and inter-linking of rivers.

The Author, a Honorary Research Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, analyses and discusses and exhorts the reader to seriously think about environment-friendly, people oriented water resource building measures such as water harvesting. The book is organised in six sections and covers wide ground. It discusses the provisions for water in India’s federal constitutional structure and the ambiguities involved. It looks at the difficulties encountered in using constitutional mechanisms for resolving inter-state river water disputes.

The Cauvery dispute has been explored in great detail and Iyer suggests that problems need to be tackled by economy in water-use, changes in cropping pattern and the integrated and sustainable management of water resources. The second section describes the different ways of perceiving water – as a basic right, as a commodity and so on and the different perspectives on water. It then moves on to explain the controversy of large dam projects. While most western countries are acknowledging their mistakes and are scrapping large dams, our government still believes big projects are a solution to big issues.

The critique on the Narmada judgement in the Supreme Court and the discordant relationship between the Government of India and the World Commission of Dams are thought-provoking. It highlights the manipulations of the powerful lobby of builders in order to damage the credibility of those who suggest alternative models of development. The author suggests a middle path – integration of large projects with smaller projects and also watershed development programmes. He says that considering the ecological, social and cultural costs of large projects, they should always be considered as ‘options of the last resort’.

The book also covers the scarcities and conflicts relating to water and cautions against being caught in regional security. The section on ‘Relations with neighbours’ talks about conflict resolution and the water treaties India has with its neighbours. Particularly important is the last section that looks at past problems and failures and also outlines a set of objectives for the future. It also analyses the idea of linking of rivers and highlights the controversial role of the judiciary and the motives of the bureaucracy and politicians. The author strongly feels that “instead of being hypnotised by such grandiose schemes we need to explore the possibilities of local augmentation.”

The book gives a detailed picture of the various issues concerning our water security and questions a number of existing fallacies. Well supported by appendices and maps, the book is a bold and critical review of crucial aspects related to India’s water policies and management.
By Ramaswamy R. Iyer, Published by: Published by Sage Publications, Hardcover; Price: Rs. 550/-

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