The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is receptive to the idea of forming the proposed National Water Commission (NWC) by merging the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
The NWC was the key recommendation of a report submitted last month by a committee headed by water expert Mihir Shah that was tasked with reorganising river water management in the country.
Since 1945 the CWC has been tasked with managing surface water and its associated structures such as dams and barrages.
The CGWB, on other hand, is largely concerned with quality of groundwater.
The proposed NWC pushes for an integrated policy, greater cognisance of overextraction of groundwater. It will also maintain environmental stability by ensuring States that share water do not draw from river basins more than what is ecologically tenable.
According to PMO, the NITI Aayog, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation decided in a meeting that a group headed by the Secretary of the water ministry would look at the proposals of the Mihir Shah committee and this group would “examine the possibility of integrating the CWC and CGWB.”
As of today, States must get a technical clearance from the CWC before they can go ahead with constructing dams and other reservoirs. Were an NWC to come into being, this power would devolve to the States and other research institutions, with the Central body becoming a research organisation and a repository of data on India’s river basins.
The Shah report was scathing in its assessment of the CWC’s competence to manage India’s future water needs.