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Dynamics of Water


Sudhirendar Sharma

MANAGING WATER SCARCITY: EXPERIENCES & PROSPECTS
Edited by A. Vaidyanathan and H.M. Oudshoom
Manohar Publishers, Delhi and IDPAD, 2004, pp. 434, Rs. 875.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 12 December 2004

Despite the book having been published seven years after the seminar in which the papers were presented, the sixteen contributions to the volume still hold as much relevance. However, to compensate for the time loss, the editors have ensured that the papers were revised and updated. Lot of water may have flown under the bridge but the intensity of the diverse but inter-related issues addressed by the Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives in Development (IDPAD) have grown since then.   In keeping up with the dynamics of the water sector, the book seeks to cover a host of topics ranging from competing demands within a river basin to emerging conflicts over overexploitation of ground water; from water quality crises to equitable distribution of scarce resources; and from stakeholders’ participation in policy planning to legal framework for attending complaints. To bring the arguments closer to reality a set of case studies have been provided as necessary back-up, making it a seemingly useful package for researchers.   Reiterating the fact that competing demand for scarce resource in the river basins is cause for increasing conflicts between stakeholders the book argues: ‘Conflicts emerge when the social institutions do not have the flexibility to accommodate change and do not provide for the participation of stakeholders.’ However, in the context of inter-state nature of the rivers it is argued that the issue of ‘riparian rights’ must give way to more rational approaches to water management that are both efficient and equitable.   Ironically, efficiency is least addressed in the context of ongoing inter-state river water sharing feuds between Punjab and Haryana, and between Karnataka and Tamilnadu. The inherent flaws in riparian principles have yet to be adequately diagnosed. Since the legal framework has yet to respond to such flaws, growing water demand in the agriculture sector is leading to growing inter-state tensions. Though it is a known fact that a 5 per cent increase in efficiency in the agricultural sector can meet the entire non-agricultural demand, reliable data and appropriate institutional mechanism is lacking to support such change.   Needless to say, be it Bhavani river in Tamilnadu or Sabarmati in Gujarat rapidly escalating agricultural demand combined with environmental concerns have sharpened the dimensions of conflict in various river basins. The submissions in the book make no mistake about the fact that the government has not only been unwilling but unable to confront these challenges. As rivers move centre-stage in the ...


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