India: The fight for equality, the right to water for all
Sonali Kudva, Kent State University
In September 2007, the government of Maharashtra, India, invited bids from private companies for the completion of the Nira-Deogarh water project in the Satara district of Maharashtra. The construction of the dam had been completed some years prior to this, but canals for irrigation and distribution had not. It was the first time there was a move toward privatization, but the government, which lacked sufficient funds for the project felt it was the best move at the time.
The invitation for bids was successful, but the move to privatize the remainder of the project invited censure from the locals as well as activists. Activists were enraged by the displacement of the villagers in the areas near the dam and by the move to give control over irrigation water supply to a private organization. Farmers and locals were afraid that privatizing the water supply would mean that water taxes and charges would go up.
The suicide rate among farmers in Maharashtra is the highest in India. Farmers can barely afford hybrid seeds and are heavily in debt. An increase in water taxes would be the final straw. Combined agitation by activists and locals alike lead the State to put the move toward privatization on hold in November 2008.
The implications of privatization of water sources and distribution include a possible rise in water rates, control over water sources by a private organization that can decide who gets water and who doesn't; which would lead to an inequitable distribution of water. Water is a basic human necessity, and the world is poised at the brink of a major water crisis. More implications of privatizing this precious human resource may come to light while pursuing this project.
Sonali Kudva is an Indian journalist who is currently a graduate student of journalism at Kent State University, USA. Sonali has travelled widely, including to unusual places like Algeria and Tunisia and hopes someday that she will get the opportunity to travel to more interesting places, perhaps as a travel journalist. Previously she has worked as a copy editor and columnist for a daily newspaper in India and freelanced for magazines and newspapers. Sonali calls India her home, even though she spends more time away from home than in it. She likes to collect Masters degrees and is in the process of accumulating her third one.
Some of her opinions can be found at:
Organisations interested in the issue:
The Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India
Implications and legalities of the Nira-Deoghar dam issue
Privatization in the Krishna basin: A recipe for conflict
The BOT notice by the Maharashtra government inviting bids
In the news
Finally Maharashtra throws open irrigation to the private sector
Private Participation being sought to complete the Nira-Deoghar irrigation plan
State plan to privatize Nira-Deoghar project put on hold
India's first bid to privatize irrigation project stalled