Progressive reform through independent regulation in Maharashtra

Thursday, 16 January, 2020

The Maharashtra Centre for Innovation, Progressive Regulation and Awareness in Water (M-CIPRAW) is taking on the big issues, proving policy options and bringing together diverse views on the challenges of providing access to safe drinking water and sustainable development.

The Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) is unique in India. Established as an independent water regulator in 2005 under state legislation, it assumed responsibilities for groundwater in 2009 under complimentary legislation. The MWRRA has built a well deserved reputation as the only fully functioning state regulator in India with the oversight of 60 sub-basins and the largest number of large dams in India.

The regulatory agency established M-CIPRAW in order to extend the engagement with a range of diverse government, academic, not for profit and private sector agencies and international partners including the South Australian Government (under an MoU) and ICE WaRM.

The Managing Director of ICE WaRM, Darryl Day, attended the first Consultative Committee meeting of M-CIPRAW in Mumbai on the 14th January at which Shri U P Singh, Secretary (Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation) provided a frank and engaging keynote address.

Secretary Singh participated in the day long programme with the 31 member Consultative Committee addressing issues such as diverse economic regulation (tariff structures for the next 3 year period), waste, water treatment, reuse, aquifer recharge, groundwater management, pollution reduction and protection of water bodies, water awareness and stakeholder engagement.

“The leadership by Mr Bakshi, Chair or MWRRA, and the Authority members, has been an inspiration in engaging internationally and nationally to canvas a broad range of views, ideas and examples of progressive reform and innovation but with a focus on engagement at the micro level with water users, local leaders and solution providers in the private sector,” said Mr Day.

“I was impressed with the openness to learn the lessons of success and failures from elsewhere, including Australia, and seek the views of international “not for profit” and UN agencies. The approach which is focused on combining innovation at technical, practice and policy levels to address the water challenges in Maharashtra is a model for others. However, the focus is not just about the role of government, but individual and collective water awareness and responsibility to achieve the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

On the 25th December 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India is addressing the urgent challenge of improving the management of groundwater through Atal Bhujal Yojana, a new national scheme with a total outlay of Rs 6,000 crore (AUD$1.2 Billion) to be implemented over a period of five years (2020-2021 to 2024-2025).The scheme aims to improve groundwater management through community participation in identified priority areas in the seven states of Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The Ministry of Jal Shakti advised that 50% of the funding is in the form of World Bank loan, and be repaid by the Central Government. The remaining 50% shall be through Central Assistance from regular budgetary support. The entire World Bank’s loan component and Central Assistance shall be passed on to the seven States as Grants.

The scheme will include active participation of the communities in various activities such as formation of water user associations, monitoring and disseminating ground water data, water budgeting, preparation and implementation of gram panchayat-wise water security plans and information, education and communication programmes related to sustainable ground water management.

This will include the previously announced Jaldoot (Hindi word meaning ‘water messenger’) water conservation program for implementation across the India through the MNREGA scheme of the Ministry of Rural Development. As reported in ICE WaRM’s previous news, the Jaldoot program is based on the MARVI project, Jaldoot is a unique initiative that focuses on participatory groundwater monitoring and the sustainable use and sharing of groundwater at a village level.

ICE WaRM has been a collaborative partner of the MARVI project (Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention) which has been led by Professor Basant Maheshwari from Western Sydney University in collaboration with CSIRO Land and Water, and a consortium of organisations including over 30 researchers and 35 farmer researchers working collaboratively for village groundwater management. The project has been running in Rajasthan and Gujarat for the last 8 years and is supported by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Australian Water Partnership (AWP).