Monday, August 30, 2010

The need and rationale for a Water Policy

One may decry the need of a policy and argue that there is already a defacto policy and dispersed over many documents and rules.And the sophists may argue that our policy is not to have a policy.We want to be free of constraints and be dynamic.Although policies often are vague and broadly drafted affirmation of principles and targets and often remain unimplemented,yet in some areas policy affirmations and determinations are vitally required,especially where many agencies and sectors may be involved.We have seen how power policy has attracted IPP investment and Export policies have promoted and expanded exports.Policy makes decision making easy on the part of the bureaucracy and saves time and effort of the stake-holders in sorting out issues.

We do not have a water policy,although we do have elements and components of water policy;an elaborate drinking water policy has been prepared;there is WAPDA's water vision 2025,which also goes by Planning Commissions water vision,which is essentially a WAPDA's strategic Plan outlining its investment pro-gramme and strategy over the period.These are parts of a potential water policy but not a policy in itself.A policy is a holistic document,enunciating principles,objectives,goals and targets,resolves and intermediates cross sectoral issues,lays out priorities and may even provide guidance to working rules.

It would be relevant here to point out that some of our flood management problems are due to the non-availability of a policy document;the issue of coordination between PMD,FFC and WAPDA on operation of the dams;the fixing of priorities,storage vs hazard and human life.An archaic Flood Manual could not possibly resolve the question in time.Thus there is a need of an integrated policy drawing upon existing framework,improving upon it and gather support around it.Water is an important issue,especially when it is getting scarce requiring prioritisation and choices to be made.There are many issues which remain to be straightened such as royalties and user charges,water allocation among various user sector,investment schemes ,strategies and targets,around which much needed action is to take place.Although,one may like to add a caveat here that in the presence of water sector reports of the lending agencies such as ADB and World Bank,what is the need of a policy.Policy without the backing of money has no teeth.They have the money and teeth as well.This was a mere caveat.A nation of 160-180 million people needs much more.

Our neighboring country India introduced a Water Policy as early as in 1987 and revised and updated it in 2002.Our Ministry of Water and Power should make an immediate beginning in this respect.The honorable minister will get a feather in his cap ,as well as the government. After all it is a highly competitive political and democratic environment wherein achievements are to be made and demonstrated as well.The immediate contribution of a political government is enunciation of policy.Implementation keeps following.Even after 62 years of our national existence,there are still new horizons and virgin territories.

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