Increase supply or manage demand?
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CTA. 2001. Increase supply or manage demand?. Rural Radio Resource Pack 01/2. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/57204
Charles Batchelor explaining how the traditional Indian concept of water as a community resource has been replaced by a system of private wells, so restricting the access of poorer people to water.
Increase supply or manage demand? CUE: Both India and South Africa have legislation to ensure that drinking water has the highest priority in the allocation of scarce water resources. However, while South Africa has received international praise for her recent legislation on water rights, in India that legislation is often so complex that it cannot be enforced. Charles Batchelor is a hydrologist who has been working on a joint Indian/South African project to see what the two countries can learn from each other. He believes that if people in dryland areas are to have reliable access to water, water projects will need to change their focus from increasing supply to better management, or allocation, of the available water, so that priority needs, such as for drinking, are met. Mike Davison spoke to Charles at his home in the UK, and began by asking him about the new laws protecting drinking water supplies in South Africa. IN: ?What has happened in the last? OUT: ?rights to water are protected? DUR?N 4?32?? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Charles Batchelor explaining how the traditional Indian concept of water as a community resource has been replaced by a system of private wells, so restricting the access of poorer people to water. Transcript Batchelor What has happened in the last two years is that the government of South Africa has developed really impressive and innovative legislation that certainly has some potential to protect the drinking water supplies for people in South Africa. Davison What legislative steps have they taken? Batchelor Basically de-linking the ownership of water from land such that now people that own land no longer have automatic rights to the groundwater under that land or the rights to surface water flowing through that land. In addition they have set up an institutional approach that ensures that groundwater reserves or surface water reserves are protected for drinking water. In fact drinking water and the environment have first use on available water resources. Davison In India also the Government would say that providing safe, clean drinking water is their highest priority in terms of water availability and use. Why do you think that has not actually meant that there is enough clean, safe drinking water for people in dryland areas in India? Batchelor It?s partly because the legislation is quite complicated but also, it?s very difficult for the government departments to actually enforce or police the legislation in the different states. Davison So if a community living in India in a dryland area wanted to ensure a better availability of water for domestic purposes what practical steps could they take do you think? Batchelor Currently what tends to happen is they?re likely to become part of a Watershed Development Programme. Currently these programmes tend to put emphasis on increasing the supply of water in an area. Generally trying to develop additional water resources by rain fall harvesting, soil and water conservation, maybe by rehabilitating tanks or reservoirs in that village area. But the simple fact is that the current approach for putting emphasis on supply is not working as well as it might and I think most people are beginning to realise that much more emphasis has to go on managing demand. And I think in the future the emphasis will be on developing institutions in villages that look at managing the water resources in those villages so that it goes to the priority uses, drinking water being the most important use in a village area. Davison So often it?s a water management committee that?s making decisions about how water should be allocated for different uses. How are the members of the committee chosen? Batchelor Under the Government of India?s Watershed Development Programme there are guidelines on how committees should be set up. The committees should be linked to the local government system. In practice of course in many areas the committees are dominated by the more powerful social groupings in villages. In many cases these are the land owners in those villages and decisions that are made by these committees tend to be biased towards the use of water for irrigation rather than for drinking water supply. There?s not an integrated approach being taken to managing water in villages such that democratically elected institutions are set up that ensure that the rights to drinking water are protected. Davison Have you come across any examples of institutional arrangements which favour domestic users rather than irrigators? Batchelor Certainly in India going back a few hundred years there was a very strong tradition of villages managing their surface and ground water resources in such a way that the drinking water was protected during dry periods. These traditional systems of management could easily provide a starting point for improved management in these modern times. Davison And would you say that those old traditional systems have underlying them a concept of water rights? Batchelor Certainly the tank based systems were really linked to the fact that the water resource or the tank was a community resource. But what has happened since then is that the tank systems have failed and water resources in many village areas have become privatised. Individuals have sunk their own wells and they pump water for their own use. So in the situation that has developed in recent times, there is little incentive for people to work together to manage the water such that the individual rights to water are protected. End of tape.
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