India's PM: No Subsidies, More Local Water Conservation Strategies

In the face of a mounting water crisis, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh outlined his plan for water conservation at a national groundwater conference in Delhi on Tuesday, stating that instead of economic and commercial subsidies, a price should be put on water usage. At the same time, he urged all local governments to come up with effective strategies to popularize rain-harvesting and to engage in maintaining traditional reservoirs through more sustainable means.

"Water conservation and management can be done better through a package of incentives and penalties," he said. However, he noted that for the plan to be effective, other changes across the board have to be made, citing the example of free electricity given to farmers who add to the problem by overdrawing the supply of groundwater through electrical pump sets.On top of privatization measures, Singh encouraged local governments to take an active role in determining local needs and strategies for water conservation, drawing on the large South Indian metropolis of Chennai as a prime example: "We have the impressive example of Chennai city that had a city-based, neighbourhood-based strategy. Every village, every locality, every neighbourhood, every town should have a rainwater harvesting scheme. Panchayats (village councils) must be actively engaged in ground water recharge and the renovation and maintenance of water bodies."

From the standpoint of some water conservationists and advocates for a protected water commons however, the government has long mismanaged water resources, locally and beyond.

"The government should respect community initiatives and support such efforts instead of becoming a stumbling block," says well-known water activist Rajendra Singh. "Communitisation, not privatization, is what we need."
::Hindustan Times &

Image: Transworld Features

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