Year after year India is inching towards acute water crisis. Per capita water availability has been decreasing, mainly due to rapid population growth, rivers and their tributaries are drying owing to un-integrated basin management practices and for years the ground water has been depleting at an alarming rate, thanks to inefficient water use and intense pumping for agriculture. Lack of easy and fair access to water and institutional failure to ensure water justice further add fuel to the water crisis.
In view of the above challenges, in 2020 Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung (HSS) India supported Centre For Environment Education (CEE) Ahmedabad and Centre for Social Research (CSR) Delhi to provide policy solutions to the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan respectively by carefully studying the state-wide local needs, engaging stakeholders for policy inputs and preparing decentralised plans for effecting water security.
In its preliminary study, CSR found that Rajasthan’s Action Plan on Climate Change (RAPCC) and water policy need to be gender inclusive in order to be effective on ground and ensure women’s involvement in the policy and implementation processes. To create a gender inclusive strategic framework for water conservation planning that promotes intersectional equity, easy access to water, water use efficiency and water security in Rajasthan, CSR developed Strategic Framework through discourse analyses of the existing national and state level policy documents and the interviews of the government officials, NGO representatives, water and gender experts, academicians and students that CSR took during the project.
Major Highlights of CSR’s intervention strategy:
In Gujarat, through its project called ‘JALSETU’, CEE could mobilize policy communities to take steps to achieve water security in rural Gujarat. State-wide Panchayat members were consulted through two virtual consultations. NGOs from the state convened in Rajkot for a one-day consultation on the water problems that the state faces. An expert agency, Arid Communities and Technologies (ACT) from Bhuj was engaged to develop water regime analyses for all the 10 project villages from the Vinchhiya block of Rajkot district. Also, the same agency was asked to prepare water security plan (WSP) for each of the 10 villages with effective involvement of the communities. At the same time, a group of experts was also tasked to develop state and national level policy recommendations to provide inputs for state and national water policies.
The developed policies were shared with the Hon’ble Minister of Water Resources of Gujarat and other state officials through a virtual state level conference. To create state buy-in and synergy with the government priorities, the WSPs were also shared with them in the conference. The Hon’ble Minister assured support for the implementation of the WSPs. One more state level conference was organised to share the WSPs with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) groups to drum up their support for the WSPs. CSR groups were forthcoming in offering their support to the adoption and implementations of the WSPs. As a result of such engagements, today in two of the 10 villages, the WSPs are already being implemented with support from the Government of India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Discussions are on with the other government agencies and CSR groups to seek their support to execute the WSPs.
The CEE intervention through its JALSETU project could achieve the following:
Given that climate change has huge impact on water regime, any policy solutions to the water woes is one-sided until and unless climate concerns are integrated thereinto. This thinking led HSS to task CEE with carrying out a policy analysis exercise to understand the climate governance in India and suggest structural changes with view to improve water-climate policy integration to achieve water security. The exercise was conducted through data analysis, policy review and national expert consultations. A direct result of that exercise was the development of a policy paper, entitled “Outlook on Climate Governance and Water Policy in India with a Focus on Participatory Approaches”.
One of the major recommendations that emerged from the policy exercise was that decentralisation in water and climate governance is the key in the battle against the unfolding water crisis. State level institutions need to be strengthened to effectively implement the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) through their respective state action plans. Assessment of the efficacy of the existing state action plans on climate change is desirable therefore. Taking this recommendation forward, in 2021 HSS and CEE have come together to carry out a study to make assessment of the efficacy of the Karnataka’s State Action Plan on Climate Change, especially with reference to water and agriculture.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic posed multiple challenges, it could not derail the efforts of HSS together with its partners, who withstood the challenges with their resilience and indomitable desire to change the status quo, to achieve project outcome.