This article has been written by Ammar Ashfaq Ammar is a law student at Integral University Lucknow. He is a student of B.A.LL.B (2020-25)
Water is a precious natural resource and life cannot exist on this earth without water. Water conservation is a serious topic as the world is facing water scarcity. It is very important to generate awareness among the people regarding its conservation as scarcity of water badly affects agriculture, wildlife, and human activities. Environmental laws are there in our nation however there is an absence of their proper implementation. A law becomes fruitful only when proper implication takes place. Constitutional provisions are reflected through the Indian environmental laws however growing economy of our nation is still incompetent to fight environmental problems.
Water laws of India have been derived from the Irrigation Act of the colonial period and basically, water laws are state-based laws and the state government is responsible for the implementation and regulation of those acts however the Indian constitution provides some power to the Union government also regarding the water laws. The central government can adjudicate some specific matters such as conflicts related to water between two states. Water laws should be implemented strictly as a large portion of our Indian economy is still dependent on water and agriculture requires water for its growth. Government alone cannot do anything unless the individual becomes active. Human beings should come forward for preserving this most precious natural resource and the 42nd amendment clause (g) of Article 51 A of the Indian constitution also highlights the responsibility of the citizens towards their environment.
The water prevention and Control of pollution act, of 1974 The Water Management Act, and the Damodar valley corporation prevention of water pollution act, of 1948 are some of the major acts that are helping in water conservation. Factories and industries have created a lot of water pollution; these acts were brought in order to reduce water pollution and to improve the quality of water with the goal of sustainable development.
PRESERVING EARTH’S LIFELINE: THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER CONSERVATION
Water is the most unique natural resource on this earth and undoubtedly existence of life is impossible without water. Three-fourths of the earth’s surface is occupied by water however nearly only one percent of water is fresh and can be used. There is an urgent need to put a stop to human activities that are leading to over-exploitation of natural resources. Conservation is an act of preserving or safeguarding the things which are exhaustible in nature and extremely essential for life such as water, fuels like coal and wood, fossil fuels like petroleum, birds, animals, and every creature created by the Almighty. The great scientist Dr. C.V Raman wrote in one of his articles that water is the elixir of life and strongly advocated for valuing its importance. In order to fulfill the needs, man started utilising earth’s natural treasure which is leading to the possible exhaustion of nature’s gift to mankind.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”. It is not only the need but greed of man to acquire more and more that has also contributed towards fast depleting natural resources and has created water scarcity. In the name of development, the trees are being cut, and forests are getting reduced without even realising that we get rain due to the trees, what is the result? We all have witnessed the effect of deforestation. The Reduction of forests also affects the animals which are the natural habitat of the forest, resulting in the migration of animals to other parts and many times to the towns. Now, if a monkey enters your house and takes away edibles so can you blame that monkey? No, we cannot blame that monkey because it is the result of human activities.
Undoubtedly the scarcity of water badly affects agriculture, rivers, and reservoirs go dry, and dams due to inadequate rains are not filled leading to less electricity production, throwing normal human life out of gear. Many times municipal corporations reduce water supply. Now the question arises who is going to suffer? Obviously the common people and nobody else. Conservationists are seriously advocating for conserving water as the entire world is facing a water crisis so each drop of water must be saved. Why don’t we ponder over the reasons why this world is experiencing atmospheric changes so often? Why there is a scarcity of food and drinking water in many parts of the world? The simple answer to this question is that whenever any attempt is made to disturb the ecological balance, it shows its effects may be in the form of water scarcity, global warming, and other atmospheric activities.
We all should come forward and take a pledge that we will utilise all the natural resources as per the requirement without any kind of wastage and we all should understand the fact that life cannot exist at any cost in the absence of water so it is better to give our best for conserving water as every creature living on this earth requires water. In the case of Subhash Kumar V. The state of Bihar, it was held that the right to have clean, pollution-free water and air is included in the right to life.
INDIAN LEGAL FRAMEWORK
The government agency is incomplete without environmental laws. A Collection of laws are included that are related to different-different aspects of the environment such as water quality, air quality, etc. national water law is more advanced than international water law however there is the absence of a proper framework in India for the regulation of fresh water. The present water law of India consists of many principles and rules. Irrigation Acts of the colonial period are also included in it. The basic principles of the water law that is applicable in India have been deduced from the Irrigation Acts itself. Mostly water laws are state-based laws. Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873 regulates drainage and irrigation in northern India. We can conclude that states have the authority of regulating canals, drainage, and other functions related to water supply however central government can also legislate on some specific matters as the Indian constitution allows the union to do so. Union also has the right of adjudicating inter-state disputes related to water, Inter-state water disputes Act, of 1956 establishes a particular way to admit disputes. Environmental Protection Act of 1986 i.e. EPA came into light after the incident of The Bhopal gas tragedy and this act tried to cover the loopholes of the fruitless environmental laws.
Laws are passed but we as an individual are doing nothing to conserve natural resources as there is a lack of awareness among the people regarding the scarcity of water. Awareness should be generated among people so that each human can contribute towards the conservation of water and government should play an active role in this. NGOs should work with the government and society for resolving the water crisis. No law can bring results if the citizens themselves are inactive therefore it is important for people to understand their responsibility towards their own issues. The same facts have been stated in the Indian constitution in the 42nd amendment clause (g) of Article 51 A. This provision of the Indian Constitution mentions that it is a fundamental duty of the citizens to protect and improve the natural environment.
THE WATER PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION ACT,1974
The main challenge of sustainable development with respect to water is to provide enough supply of clean water to people so that humans can continue their daily activities without causing harm to the environment.
This Act was enacted in the year 1974. This act was brought in order to prevent and control water pollution. Pollution originating from factories and industries has already degraded the water quality so this act tried to control the level of water pollution to some extent. States have the authority to make water laws and the union is not allowed to do so without the consent of a particular state or states, however, this Act was passed by the central government of India and it received consent from the majority of the states which includes Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Himachal, Bihar, Haryana and some more states along with some Union Territories.
A large portion of the Indian economy is still dependent on agriculture so such laws are very crucial for a nation like India which could help in conserving water and protecting the quality of water. The Water Management Act, and Damodar valley corporation prevention of water pollution act, 1948 are some other relevant laws that have been made for water conservation. Undoubtedly the protection of drinking water is a major problem and there is a great need for strict legislation and implementation as everybody needs clean water for their survival. In Sardar Sarovar’s case, Supreme Court declared that the right to water is a part of Article 21. Humans need water in their daily life and it is a fundamental right to have water.