MIHIR SHAH COMMITTEE
A high-powered committee led by Mihir Shah was set up to ensure water resource development.
The report was titled “A 21st Century Institutional Architecture for India’s Water Reforms: Restructuring the CWC and CGWB”.
1. It has suggested that an urgent overhaul of the current water management system is required Change is required both in surface water as well as ground water management policies to face the emerging challenges.
2. It has suggested a restructuring of Central Water Commission and Central Ground Water Board.
- At present, the CWC, which develops surface water projects, and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), which monitors ground water use and contamination, carry out functions independent of each other.
- For integrated water management, development, planning, water-use efficiency and for budgeting the adoption of a river basin approach, restructuring is necessary.
- The mandate of CWC belongs to an old era when dam construction and tube well drilling was the prime need of the hour.
- The CWC now lacks expertise in water utilisation, environmental and socio-economic issues and in efficient irrigation management to deal with present-day challenges of droughts, floods, climate change and food and water security.
3. It has proposed to establish a National Water Commission (NWC) that will replace the CWC and the CGWB and become the apex facilitation organisation dealing with water policy, data and governance. The NWC should be an adjunct office of the Ministry of Water Resources, functioning with both full autonomy and requisite accountability.
4. The key functions of the NWC will include: (i) incentivise state governments to implement irrigation projects in reform mode, (ii) lead the national aquifer mapping and ground water management program, (iii) develop a location-specific program for rejuvenation of rivers, etc.
5. It has suggested that industrial water should be brought under its ambit, which is rapidly increasing.
6. It has warned against the perils of dependence on large dam projects and also about the dismal spread of irrigation facilities over decades.
7. Tertiary level canals and below, minor structures and field channels should be handed over to Water Users Associations of farmers and Integration into the planning and cost developing process for all irrigation projects.
8. The key recommendation of the committee is to shift focus from construction to decentralized management and maintenance.