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Excreta Matters Newsletter

Excreta Matters

Editorial: Bill versus Draft

Three months after a new version of the National Water Framework Bill drafted by a committee headed by Yogendra Alagh was unveiled, the Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat held the first meeting of the National Forum of Water Resources and Irrigation Ministers of States. One of the main aims was to get states to agree to the need for such a law.

There is no doubt about the need for such a law, as prominent water experts noted in an explanatory note to an earlier attempt at drafting it. This versiondating from 2011 was drafted by a sub-group of the Planning Commission’s Working Group on Water Governance for the 12th Five Year Plan (called the Draft here). Curiously, the Ministry felt this was not consultative enough and proceeded, shortly thereafter to start a parallel process. Another reason the Ministry gave was the Bill should be in conformity with theexisting Acts, Laws, Principles, etc., and some minimum standards should beprescribed for the States for implementation and to prevent them from a Business AsUsual (BAU) scenario. Earlier attempts on prescriptive laws by Centre have nothelped and States themselves have acknowledged that they require a strong pushfrom the Centre to make their establishment recognize the critical stage of waterdevelopment.This statement seems at variance with the Constitutional provision that water is a state subject and at the heart of setting up the National Forum.

The Ministry’s process of drafting the law was supposed to be more consultative; the constitution of the drafting committee that has a preponderance of government officers, and the process, seems to have been anything but. Additionally, the 2013 Bill appears to be a weak and incomplete version of the 2011 draft, which itself was ‘an umbrella statement of general principles governing the exercise of legislative and/or executive power by the Centre, the state and local government institutions’.

A few examples illustrate this. The 2013 Bill mentions in section 6(1) that each state will set up an independent water regulatory authority ‘for ensuring equitable access to water for all and its fairpricing, for drinking and other uses such as sanitation,agricultural and industrial’ but its decisions will be open to judicial review. While this in itself is problematic, the experience with water regulatory authorities is very poor. Only one exists in Maharashtra and has been systematically emasculated by the State Government. The 2011 draft is more nuanced, stating the functions of water management institutions and emphasizing the need for autonomy.

By stating that a river basin shall be the basic unit for hydrological planning, development and management of water resources (Section 3-1), the Bill ignores the federal structure of government and a principle of integrated water management: planning begins at the local level and federated upwards. This is something the Draft clearly states, in addition to saying water planning must take surface and ground water into consideration. Rather than improving water management, the Bill is concerned with creating more government institutions. This will end up confounding the already convoluted water governance scenario.

Again, the Draft clearly prioritizes water for life over everything else. It also recognizes the universal right to water. The Bill is less clear in the priorities for water allocation, stating each individual has the right to 25 litres of potable water per day. This has no basis and hard-coding a figure into what is essential a framework Bill will make it impossible to implement at an all-India level. The other water priorities are unclear which is dangerous since water for industry can then be given precedence over water for agriculture or the environment.

The Bill has no mention of water conflicts and a redressal mechanism, or the role of women in water. Both are dealt with in some detail in the Draft. Regarding major water projects, the Draft advises a cautious approach to minimize impacts on the environment and human beings. It also restates the paripassu principle of resettlement and rehabilitation while constructing large projects, that is ignored by the Bill. Likewise, there is nothing on augmenting local water availability through micro interventions. Significantly, the Bill completely ignores traditional knowledge in water management, one of the main reasons for the current water emergency in the country.

The section of floods and droughts in the Bill takes an engineering approach of control, rather than a more intelligent one of minimizing their impact. Participatory water management is left to Water Users Associations (WUAs), a problematic social construct as they non-representative. The Bill says the Water Resources Information System will be the aggregator and disseminator of information; this System is closed to non-government users. There is a proposal to allow non-government users access on payment of fee and an undertaking both of which will again ensure data exclusivity. Experience has shown that India’s water data is flaky at best, and the Bill is silent on how to improve data quality. The Draft calls for total transparency of WRIS data that may help to improve its quality.

The Bill seeks to extend and centralize the country’s water bureaucracy while throwing a few crumbs to local government institutions. In its current form it will create another water management monster that will convert water into a resource to be managed, rather than a public commons to be held in trust by the State. There is a need for further debate if indeed the Ministry is serious about a workable Bill that reflects the nuances of water management.

On another note, we would like draw your attention to an announcement on rainwater harvesting.

Nitya Jacob, CSE
Reality Bites
A fulminating issue, and a solution
Text: Bharat Lal Seth
Art: Anirban Bora
Guest Blog
On Rainwater Harvesting in the Bangalore Context
April and May is seeing a staggering case of ‘water blindness’ in Bangalore. The media is full of reports on how the KRS dam on the Cauvery has reached dead storage level. The new Chief Minister had to be consulted and water released from an upstream dam on the Hemavathi River to the KRS dam. Police protection had to be ensured so that no farmers ‘stole’ the water en-route.  Water is released from the KRS dam and it reaches the Shiva Anicut downstream, from here the water is diverted to the Netkal balancing reservoir and is then pumped a distance of 95 kilo-metres and to a height of 300 metres to be distributed to the thirsty population of Bangalore.

As this riverine drama was going on, it was raining on the city itself. In the months of April and May, the driest and hottest months all across India, it poured all of 163 mm on the city. If you did the math, on the city of 1250 sq. km. which is the CDP area, the total volume of rain that fell would be a staggering 1,87,500 million litres. At the demand from the city of 1200 million litres per day, this water if harvested would have provided for 156 days of requirement. Granted that not all of it can be harvested but even 50 % efficiency would mean 78 days of supply.

Bangalore has made rainwater harvesting mandatory. All old sites with over 240 sqmt plot area and all new sites with 120 sq. mt.mt. of plot area must have a rainwater harvesting structure. The rules are also simple – create 20 litre storage or recharge structure for every square metre of roof area. For the paved area on the plot, create storage or recharge structure of 10 litres for every square metre. The recharge structure itself should be 1 metre in diameter and at-least 3 metres deep. 

If the good citizens of Bangalore follow the law there should be no water shortage in the fair city.

The open well of Mr Balasubramanian , the blue filter picks up rooftop rainwater and sends it to the well

Individual examples: Some fascinating examples stand out. Mr. Balasubramanian, in the layout called Vidyaranyapura, has an old open well. He has recharged it using a simple drum filter filled with sand. The rooftop rainwater comes in through the filter and into the well. Since 2008 his well has not gone dry and provides him water right through the year. The water too costs him Rs 2.30 /- a kilo-litre, the cheapest water in the city. The quality of water in the well is only improving with time and recharge.

The 50 year old open well of Mr Chandra Sekhar , recharged with rooftop rainwater and now full

Such is also the case with Mr. Chandra Shekar of Jayanagar 3rd Block. He too has rejuvenated a well 50 years old. The fact is that rainwater harvesting keeps these wells alive and in an emergency even when there is no power water can be drawn through buckets thus providing electricity independent water.

Dr B.R. Hegde on the other hand has built a separate rainwater sump tank of 5000 litres capacity. He stores the rooftop rainwater and uses it for non-potable purpose.


Dr Hegde stores rooftop rainwater in a 5000 litre sump tank with the steel cover.

Rainwater Harvesting Theme Park:
The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board have set up a theme park on rainwater harvesting in Jayanagar 5th Block. Here citizens can see more than 50 different types of rainwater harvesting possibilities including recharge structures as well as landscape and storm-water design which is rain friendly. A free consultation is also available with Engineers for a basic rainwater harvesting design. The BWSSB will also put you in touch with trained plumbers to carry out the job.

Rainwater harvesting theme park in Jayanagar 5th Block Bangalore
All in all rainwater harvesting is slowly but surely establishing its foothold in Bangalore. Once it becomes a mass movement, water should no longer be a constraint for the growth of this city. It is time to look to the skies and act rather than to look to the dams and complain.
Towards wetland/lake conservation (Meeting in Colombo)
Date: June 11, 2013
Catchwater: Technical advice for planning and designing rainwater harvesting in your house/colony/institution/industry

Every Friday between 2-6 PM, CSE provides technical advice for designing rainwater harvesting to interested individual/institutions/RWA/industries. You can meet CSE staff members in their office at the following address:

41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area
New Delhi - 110062

If you are interested in setting up a rainwater harvesting structure, please get a prior appointment through mail (amandeep@cseindia.org / sushmita@cseindia.org) or you can call (+91-9013900696).
Please send us the filled up attached form: (Questionnaire for RWH: pdf | doc) before coming to the meeting.


Lakes/Wetlands Database

CSE is developing a database consist of legal cases and information on clean up technologies for the lakes in India and South Asia. If you know about any such cases, please send the details to sushmita@cseindia.org / amandeep@cseindia.org using the attached form (Lake Information Form: pdf | doc).

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