India is the country with ample sources of fresh water from lakes, rivers, mountains and underground water. The country’s natural water resources have not only to meet the agriculture requirements but also the domestic needs, provided the water management becomes stronger. The drinking water issue being the top on list as it is being observed that the resources are depleting owing to water pollution, exhausting underground water, changing monsoon pattern and ever growing demand.The country is still coping with the water requirement of the largest population in the world. United Nations and WHO in their contribution to the developing countries have timely contrived schemes and international laws.

Sectoral water situation

Understanding that the water laws at the international level are not essentially in line with the sectoral water laws, the international laws haven’t been able to prove helpful in India. India is divided in states and each state has it own water laws implemented to deal with the water requirement, its cleanliness and storage. International water laws have the objectivity to follow the core regulations at an international level. And hence they are yet to be effectively developed with regard to cooperation on issues related to water within the national boundaries.

The international awareness has woken up to the issue in relation to the environmental front of water; it yet has to integrate its perspective towards issues related to social and human rights. The dimensions for fresh water regulation in India are completely lacked.

The umbrella framework within which India works is closely monitored by affairs of state. Hence the existing water laws are characterized by the co-existence of various principles, rules, procedures and authorities.

Over decades the state has constituted its own laws. The state in itself is responsible for provision of clean drinking water to its citizens. Being duty bound to protect and enable its citizens to enjoy their rights every state has taken measures to provide drinking and domestic water in every part.

The right to water imposes obligations to respect, protect and fulfill on States parties. The obligation to respect requires that States parties refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to drinking water.

The right to water imposes obligations to respect, protect and fulfill on States parties. The obligation to respect requires that States parties refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to drinking water.

The obligation to protect requires State parties to prevent third parties from interfering in any way with the enjoyment of the right to drinking water.

This obligation includes, inter alia, adopting the necessary and effective legislative and other measures to restrain, for example, third parties from denying equal access to adequate drinking water, and polluting and inequitably extracting water resources.

The obligation to fulfill requires State parties to adopt the necessary measures directed towards the full realization of the right to drinking water. It includes, inter alia, according sufficient recognitionof the right within the national political and legal systems to realize the right; ensuring that the right is affordable for everyone particularly in rural and deprived urban areas.

The obligation to fulfill is disaggregated into the obligations to facilitate, promote and provide drinking water by adopting various measures especially where individuals or groups are unable to realize the right for reasons beyond their control.

Water is a cultural and economic asset that the society must learn to guard and respect. Dependence on tap water has increased since past few decades. The lowering water tables and urbanization has lead to switch from underground water to tap water. The prime source of water in many villages in India is still the groundwater.

Contraction of villages and development of cities has put in pressure the government to source more and more clean water to its citizens. There is a lack of technology to meet the huge demand, the water purification process and plants in India are obsolete.

The shortage of water in the country is slowly affecting the lives of people as well as the environment around them. Some of the major issues that need urgent attention are:

  • As a result of excessive extraction of ground water to meet agriculture, industrial and domestic demands, drinking water is not available during the critical summer months in many parts of the country.
  • About 10 per cent of the rural and urban population does not have access to regular safe drinking water and many more are threatened. Most of them depend on unsafe water sources to meet their daily needs. Moreover, water shortages in cities and villages have led to large volumes of water being collected and transported over great distances by tankers and pipelines
  • Chemical contaminants namely fluoride, arsenic and selenium pose a very serious health hazard in the country. It is estimated that about 70 million people in 20 states are at risk due to excess fluoride and around 10 million people are at risk due to excess arsenic in ground water. Apart from this, increase in the concentration of chloride, TDS, nitrate, iron in ground water is of great concern for a sustainable drinking water programme. All these need to be tackled holistically. With over extraction of groundwater the concentration of chemicals is increasing regularly.
  • Ingress of seawater into coastal aquifers as a result of over-extraction of ground water has made water supplies more saline, unsuitable for drinking and irrigation.
  • Pollution of ground and surface waters from agrochemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) and from industry poses a major environmental health hazard, with potentially significant costs to the country. The World Bank has estimated that the total cost of environmental, damage in India amounts to US$9.7 billion annually, or 4.5 per cent of the gross domestic product. Of this, 59 per cent results from the health impacts of water pollution (World Bank 1995).
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