Right to water and legislation for ground water usage emphasized in the NHRC meeting as key to achieving sustainable development goals

Right to water and legislation for ground water usage emphasized in the NHRC meeting as key to achieving sustainable development goals

New Delhi, 27th July, 2021

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC India, today held an online meeting on the Right to Water with different stakeholders. Chairing it, Mr. Justice A.K. Mishra, Chairperson NHRC said that water is an important component of life. It is an obligation on the part of local bodies to supply potable water. However, conservation, preservation and distribution of water remain a vexed issue not only internationally but also regionally and locally.

Justice Mishra said that contamination of ground and surface water bodies remains a serious problem despite several efforts being made involving huge expenditure. He said that the Commission looks forward to the Jal Jeevan Mission, 2024 seeking to provide potable water taps in every village householdsm

Co- chairing the meeting, the NHRC Member, Mr. Justice M.M Kumar said that in the wake of scarcity of drinking water, it’s judicious use and de-contamination needs to be promoted. Sewage flow in the rivers should be stopped. He spoke about several court judgments and Article 21 of the Constitution to extend Right to Water within the ambit of Right to Life.

NHRC Member, Mr. Rajiv Jain said that crop rotation needs to be promoted to discourage excessive use of ground water resources for irrigation purposes. He also said that codification of Right to potable water on the lines of Right to Food needs to be ensured.

Earlier, NHRC Secretary General, Mr. Bimbadhar Pradhan, triggering the discussions said that big bang water reforms are required to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6.1. He underlined several issues including overexploitation, inequitable distribution and riparian issues related to water resources.

Mr. Bharat Lal, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti gave an insight into the efforts of the Union Government towards ensuring potable water taps for every household by 2024. He also said that the focus of the Government is not just on addressing the issue of chemical contamination of water bodies including underground and surface but also on the Geogenic contamination.

The other prominent speakers included Mr. Manish Wasuja, WASH Specialist, UNICEF, Mr. V.K Madhavan, Chief Executive, WaterAid India, Mr. Surajit Dey, Registrar (Law), Mrs. Anita Sinha, JS (P&T), also addressed the meeting.

Some of the other important suggestions that emerged during the discussions were as follows:

• Besides recognizing the need for Right to Water, a legislation is also required on ground water use;

• Define clearly Right to Water with reference to groundwater and surface water usage;

• Promote revival of traditional water bodies;

• Promote crop rotation and less water consuming crops;

• Promote micro irrigation technologies;

• Discourage use of potable water for irrigation purposes;

• Besides the chemical contamination, microbiological contamination also needs to be looked into;

• Attention also needs to be paid towards the preservation of dying watershed services like springs, which have been a perennial source of water supply to the rivers and not just the rain and glacier melted water;

• Encourage role of women in water usage and its management;

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