Dehradun, July 28: The Uttarakhand government is yet to implement its water management and regulatory act, which experts claim could mitigate natural disasters.
The Uttarakhand Water Management and Regulatory Act, 2013, came into being after Governor Aziz Qureshi gave his consent on April 4, much before the disaster struck the state on June 16-17. The act provides for establishment of a Water Management Regulatory Authority which will ensure judicious and equitable management of water resources in the state as well as its proper allocation and optimal utilisation.
The five-member authority will have the powers of a civil court and the mandate to carry out developments in the state in an eco-friendly and sustainable manner. It will also devise a new water policy to manage rivers which are wreaking havoc on the villages situated on their banks in the state during the past few years.
The proposed authority will also fix rates for water use for industrial, drinking, power, agriculture and other purposes and take cess on land benefited by flood protection and drainage works. Noted environmentalist Anil Prakash Joshi said, "Water management has become a necessity in the flood-affected state and government should take immediate measures to implement this act."
As per the act, the proposed authority will approve an integrated state water plan and basin plans to ensure sustainable management of water resources within the parameters laid down by the state water policy.
The Act will also determine the allocation and distribution of entitlements for various categories of use of water at utility, project level and also between various water users under the water policy. It will lay down procedures for diversion, storage and use of surface water and ground water of the state.
The authority will also review and accord clearances to new water resources projects proposed on the river basins and sub-basins. Another provision under the act aims to monitor conservation of environment and facilitate the development of a framework for the preservation of quality of surface and ground water resources.
The authority will have the power to take action against anyone found polluting the surface and ground water. Harshpati Uniyal, an adviser to the state planning commission, has described the act as a milestone and said its implementation will ensure the mitigation of the sufferings of people affected by calamities.
"Unplanned development increases the impact of such calamities. But under the new act, the authority can suggest long-term measures to mitigate such disasters," he said.
Uniyal, who had prepared a draft bill for the regulation and control of ground water in 2007, said the key points of this draft bill have already been incorporated in the new act.