Sulagna Chattopadhyay
Geography and You, New Delhi.

We live in an unequal world—which is good. It assists adaptation. So spatial and temporal variations in water regimes should not bother humankind, given its thousands of years’ ancestry in water management, essential as it is to survival. But the reality is slightly more baffling, especially in the Indian context. Water is a right—constituent of the right to life and livelihoods. And since protection of rights falls in the purview of the benevolent State, water is therefore its pet subject. This we understand. But, has the State been able to factor in the cost of the Anthropocene—one where man manages to change his micro-environment in a trajectory hitherto unknown? Possibly not. On one hand we see luminaries sagaciously soliciting mega-merger of all entities in the federal system that speak ‘water’. On the other hand, however, individual communities emboldened by constitutional provisions are free to take on the ‘water’ lexicon and interpret it their way. And of course, each one believes that they have the answer.

The discourse that runs through this issue, intensifies this conundrum. If communities were to take control, would that lead to further divides, in an already mutilated milieu, or would it absolve the State of some of its arduous responsibilities? And where would the fine line lie – if villages or gated communities are able to sustainably manage their water resources, would it be their right too to deny access to adjoining scarcity driven populace?  Any informed individual perusing the crop and moisture mismatch can perceive how willingly the State bends to fulfill unjustified demands of affluent farmers, despite academicians screaming murder. Would democracy then become a slave to the number game? Yet, the success stories of community partnership are many. But how that sharpens India’s water resilience is still in the realm of research.