New Delhi,9 May:The Ministry of Rural Development is organising a workshop on “Legislation on the Protection of Drinking Water Sources and Provision of Potable Water” tomorrow (May 10th ,2008). A number of issues related with the Enactment of a legislation enabling the notification of areas to be protected as reserve drinking water sources on the lines of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1981; Whether the existing laws are sufficient for ensuring protection and prevention of pollution of drinking water sources or whether they need any further amendment or a new legislation itself is necessary; Invoking the provisions of Indian Penal Code for awarding severe punishment for infringement of the law relating to protection and prevention of pollution of drinking water sources; Making right to water a Constitutional right; of potability of water and providing legal dimensions; Standards; Can drinking water sources in rural areas be prevented from being used for urban water supply; Whether we can create drinking water sanctuaries and Drinking water being a State subject, can the Central Government make a new law for protection of drinking water sources and provision of potable water will be discussed in the workshop.
The issue for consideration is whether the existing legislations enough to protect pollution of drinking water sources, which has the first charge as per National Water policy, 2002. If not, can suitable amendments to the existing legislation serve the purpose. Is there necessity of enacting a national legislation on regulation of potable water in the country.
Since the quality of drinking water has been a contentious issue in India, concern has been expressed from all quarters regarding rapid urbanization and its impact on rural areas both in terms of over-exploitation of water sources of rural areas and disposal of huge quantum of solid and liquid wastes in the rural areas thereby contaminating both the surface and ground water sources. However , the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, enacted by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MHFW) did not include “water” under the definition of food, though “bottled water” or “packaged water” was included. Although, there are many Acts/Legislations available in the Country for control/ abatement of pollution like:-Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Water (Cess) Act, 1977 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
After detailed deliberations it has been suggested that drinking water may not be added under the definition of food under the Integrated Food Laws (IFL), but an initiative be taken in drafting a Model legislation on regulation of potable water in the country along with other aspects like standards setting mechanism, phasing of implementation and implications on Centre and State.
Presently the rural drinking water supply is implemented by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) or equivalent bodies like rural water supply department or Board in States. Urban water supply is also implemented by PHED and Municipalities/ Board/Corporation in big towns and Cities. The standards followed by the rural water supply are BIS standard IS-10500 while in towns, equivalent norms framed by the Central Public Health & Environmental Engineering Organization (CPHEEO), Ministry of Urban Development are followed. More than 80% of drinking water sources in the rural areas are based on ground water while in cities, a majority of water supply sources are surface water based. It is evident that ground water sources are subject to chemical contamination in the form of excess fluoride, arsenic, nitrate, iron or salinity while surface water bodies are not at risk for chemical contamination unless industrial effluents contaminate these water bodies. However, surface water bodies are subject to bacteriological contamination, treatment of which is not that complicated as that of treating ground water.