Water and federalism

Indian Constitution lists water as a state subject, and the executive power over water resources development and management is concentrated with the states. Though these powers are subject to centre’s powers over interstate river water regulation and development, a weak articulation and evolution of these powers have produced a condition of federal ‘tragedy of commons.’ This is manifested as water stress conditions, dangerously depleting groundwater reserves, deteriorating quality of water resources – endangering India’s long term water security.

In order to address India’s water governance challenges, the fulcrum has to be located in strengthening its federal governance of water. Towards a better understanding of this problem, the World Bank commissioned this study with CPR to explore the ‘federal leverage’ that the centre enjoys in influencing the water resource management strategies of states. An interdisciplinary team consisting of members from Accountability Initiative and the Environmental Law and Governance have looked into the policy, legal, institutional and financial instruments at the centre’s disposal to influence and incentivize progressive policy making by states for sustainable water resource management and towards long term water security.

Image: Laurie Jones