With an aim to resolve the inter-state disputes over river water sharing, the Union Government in October 2016 came out with a draft National Water Framework Bill, 2016. The bill seeks to set up a mechanism to develop and manage river basin in an integrated manner.
This mechanism will help the states to get equitable share of the river’s water without violating rights of others.
Highlights of the 26-page Draft Bill
• It calls for establishment of a River Basin Authority for each inter-state basin to ensure optimum and sustainable development of rivers and valleys.
• It proposes establishment of institutional arrangements at all levels to solve disputes through negotiations, conciliation or mediation before they become acute.
• It also devises an integrated approach to conserve water and manage groundwater in a sustainable manner.
• It says that every person has a right to sufficient quantity of safe water for life within easy reach of the household.
• It says that all basin states are equal in rights and status, and there is no hierarchy of rights among them, and further, in this context, equality of rights means not equal but equitable shares in the river waters.
• It says that state should recognise the principle that the rivers are not owned by the basin-states but are public trustees.
However, the proposed legislation will not be binding on the states for adoption as water is a state subject under the Schedule VII of the Constitution. But, it can act as a model bill for states for preparing their own laws on use and conservation of water.
Soon, the bill will be placed before the Union Cabinet for approval before it is tabled in Parliament.
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