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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Local versus private control of water resources.

Posted By: Philippe MacClenahan
Date: Thursday, 22 July 1999, at 11:34 a.m.

In Response To: Local solutions: recharge of wells / Kathiawar-India. (Vidyut Joshi and H. C. Dube)

Your case study demonstrates again that most often satisfying technical solutions can be found to solve human carelessness. Too often, however, local populations are left to cope with enduring problems inherited from short-sighted government measures of resources use.

Given the scale of the problem in the Gujarat area (you mention that only 5% of wells are recharged), it is unlikely that NGOs alone will be able to support the population needs. Have the government planned on taking on similar recharge projects at the regional scale? Would investment from private water companies acting within constraining regulations be appropriate? There is a trend for water resources to become managed by private companies. These companies are usually part of larger corporate groups. Drinking water issues are not as obviously acute in temperate regions than in your area but there are signs that they will become more severe in the near future, especially to meet the demand of large conurbations or large tourist resorts on islands.

What we have witnessed with the development of oil extraction and distribution monopolies is slowly happening with ownership and management of drinking water. One should ensure that this (inevitable?) trend is checked by proper partnership between the private and public sector controlled by adapted regulations. Drinking water should never become a case for financial speculation. While one can cope without oil for long periods, it is not the case with drinking water.

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