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Are water policies a case of reverse engineering in India?


  • Viswanathan, P. K.
  • Parthasarathy, P.


The emerging water crisis calls for a paradigm shift in policies and regulatory regimes the world over, including India. However, there are serious challenges and operational level constraints needing a thorough scrutiny and understanding as regards the historical and region-specific contexts and factors within which such policies and regulatory regimes are evolving. Arguably, water policies should have been evolved based on an understanding of the social contexts within which they are to be implemented. Besides, implementation of water policies also requires creating new or fine-tuning of the existing regulatory regimes and governance systems to have the desirable outcomes on the society. Set in this broader perspective, the paper tries to understand the emerging policy as well as institutional reforms and regulatory regimes in water sector in India, with particular reference to Maharashtra and Gujarat states. First, the paper provides a brief review of the national water policies of 1987 and 2002, followed by a detailed discussion on the water policies/ water sector reforms in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Then it makes a critical assessment of the policies of Maharashtra and Gujarat with respect to their responses and sensitiveness in addressing the water sector challenges as discussed above. As emerge from the analysis, it is obvious that only Maharashtra has set up policy framework of enabling provisions and authorities with somewhat clearly defined powers. The central question that remain unanswered is, what is water right and how is it defined. So far the polices only state priorities (for instance drinking water to be first and so on) but these are clearly not with respect to the state of the resource (except in scarcity years). We argue that in many of the natural resources there is a need to intercede the management of the resource and the users’ interests with clearly defined legal framework. Except in Andhra Pradesh and in Maharashtra, half-hearted attempts in many other states to reverse engineer the process of providing legal support to isolated cases of water distribution (not management) have neither led to improvements in resource management nor in legitimizing users stake in the resources.Length: pp.692-707

Suggested Citation

  • Viswanathan, P. K. & Parthasarathy, P., 2008. "Are water policies a case of reverse engineering in India?," Conference Papers h042928, International Water Management Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:iwt:conppr:h042928

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 3i Network,, 2007. "India Infrastructure Report 2007: Rural Infrastructure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195685503.
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