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Theory And Practice Of The Human Right To Water In India

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Kanupriya Harish (Jaipur, India), Aishwarya Chattopadhyay
Jal Bhagirathi Foundation1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 1: Water supply and demand,
Abstract Theory and Practice of the human right to water in India INTRODUCTION The Indian Constitution does not explicitly spell out the right to water and sanitation as one of its fundamental rights. This right comes under the umbrella Article 21 (right to water), where courts at both state and federal level have interpreted it as encompassing the right to safe and sufficient water and sanitation. It is for this reason that in 2002 the National Constitution reviewed the fundamental rights and far along the state and the federal courts presented Article 30D for the same determination. In India, issues related to the equitable access to water as also of the right of communities to manage their water resources, have informed the human rights debate on water. This debate reflects the global discourse on the role of community-based institutions in ensuring equitable access and managing this scarce resource through locally decided rules. METHODS/MATERIALS Deciding on the structures of participation in decision-making on water resources, creating a system of valuing water, through local rules of access and pricing as also addressing inter-village conflicts on water are issues that the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF) has dealt with over more than a decade. Since 2008, JBF has also been active on addressing sanitation through the lens of women's rights to dignity and privacy. JBF works in Marwar in the state of Rajasthan. With 90 people per square kilometer, the region receives on average a meager 200mm rainfall per year. Water conflicts are a reality in the region and the human right to safe water is endangered by the extreme salinity of the ground water. The value of water is higher than in urban areas, as people of the region spend a high percentage of their income on procuring water. The work of the JBF and its donors and partners has resulted in a range of best practice cases in the challenging environment of the world's most populated arid zone. The paper analyses the best practices emerging from across 400 villages in the region. It reviews key factors that have contributed to the success of the multi-tiered democratic governance structure at village, block and regional level. As a member of India's vibrant civil society, JBF benefits from the 'right to water' perspective of its Vice Chairman, Rajender Singh, India's Water Man and Magsaysay Award winner and a national water movement the 'Jal Biradari network. JBF has developed strategies to ensure the active participation of women and marginalised sections of the society in shaping policy positions as also in deciding on the Foundations' engagement. Such perspectives also entered national consultations on the citizen's right to safe drinking water and led to a policy paper on "A Safe Drinking Water Act". The current paper reviews the methods developed over time in building local capacities and structures of participation in the management of water resources. It reviews the emergence of JBF's regional learning forum covering the perspectives of multiple stakeholders through a four-tiered system of community institutions. JBF has used Information, Education and Communication tools to achieve an understanding of challenges on water security as also a democratic culture of participation to find solutions. Using a wide range of tools and participatory exercises, strategies are developed to share with the inhabitants, resulting in a 'Community led Water management System'. The paper also looks at concurrent benefits to achieving the right to Education, Health, and Gender mainstreaming. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 1. Participatory approaches: Essential to achieving the human right to water Achieving the human right to water through participatory process and the creation of inclusive institutions will be a key first result area of the paper. A critical aspect is the organisation's own unique structure that will be examined for its contribution to the effectiveness of the organisation's approach. The institutional framework based on volunteers and networks will be reviewed for its ability to build people's capacity to create local democratic governance structures securing equal access to water. 2. Women's Rights and challenges Traditional gender bias and caste discrimination have led to the social exclusion of women and people from the lower castes from decision-making forums on water resource management. The paper will address challenges to women's participation and lessons from the best practice case studies for involving men and women equally in the decision-making process. 3. Responsive Governance The water crisis is essentially a crisis of governance. The paper looks at strategies used by JBF to strengthen the accountability of public governance and policy and to foster the participation of civil society. This strategy includes the creation of forums for debate, engaging and linking stakeholders, as also contributing to the building of a wider social consensus on water laws and governance. CONCLUSION The paper will distill key factors of the strategies employed for ensuring the human right to water in practice. It seeks to identify those factors that can be replicated by other civil society organisations working on the right to water in challenging social and ecological conditions. The paper will compare JBF's strategies in the creation of democratic and multi-tiered institutions with strategies employed by others to achieve the objective of access to water as also a greater capacity to shape local institutions as also public policy. The paper views the right to water and sanitation as going beyond a legal acknowledgment or allocations of public funds. Rather, it provides the basis for guiding civil society, the public and private sector in engaging ultimate end users.
2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin