ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Water: Charting a Course for the Future - I

Water has suddenly become a favoured subject for seminars and conferences all over the world. A common trend in most of the discussions is to proceed from projections of demand to supply-side solutions in the form of 'water resource development' projects; estimate the massive investment funds needed; take note of the severe limitations on the availability of financial resources with governments; point to private sector investment as the answer; and stress the need for policy change to facilitate this. In India, consciousness of the importance of the subject led to the appointment of the first National Commission on water, which submitted its report in September 1999. This paper attempts to provide a broad and compendious account of the state of affairs in India as far as water resources are concerned and to chart a course for the future.

I
Introductory

In recent years there has been a growing perception of a looming water scarcity. Water has suddenly become a favoured subject for seminars and conferences all over the world. The UNDP, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are seriously concerned about the projected water scarcity. Academic institutions in several countries are engaged in research programmes on the possibilities of conflict over scarce natural resources, particularly water. There is a currently fashionable thesis that future wars will be fought over water, not oil. That is a debatable proposition, but the prognosis of acute water scarcity in the not too distant future cannot easily be disputed. Several institutions and networks have sprung up to deal with this and related matters: World Water Commission, World Water Council, Global Water Partnership, and so on. A series of ‘Water Vision 2025’ exercises were undertaken by different countries in south Asia under the auspices of the Global Water Partnership during the last three years in preparation for the World Water Forum held at the Hague in March 2000. The ‘Vision’ exercises were partly national (India Water Vision, Pakistan Water Vision, etc) and partly thematic (Water for Food, Water for Nature, etc), and these were eventually brought together into a ‘South Asia Water Vision 2025’ for presentation at the Hague Forum.

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