Review of water governance in the Narmada river basin

Water governance in the Narmada river basin has been in the eye of a controversial storm from the time of independence. While initially the dispute had been between the riparian states over the apportionment of the use of the waters of the river for large dam centered canal irrigation and hydro-electric power development later the dispute shifted to the appropriateness of this kind of development given the tremendous environmental and social costs associated with it. This later problematisation of centralised water governance and people's mobilisation for a more decentralised, participatory and environmentally sustainable use of water resources has inspired a rich body of thought and action with regard to appropriate water governance not only in the basin but across the country and the world. The present review begins by detailing the geographical characteristics and resource endowments of the basin followed by a description of the status of agricultural and industrial development and their impact on the water quality. The dispute over river water sharing and its resolution is described next followed by details of some of the major projects under construction in the basin. The problematisation of centralised water governance by the Narmada Bachao Andolan and its culmination in the Supreme Court case is detailed thereafter. This is followed by a review of the various problems of large dam centred water resource development. Finally the various traditional and modern alternative approaches to water resource use and governance in the basin are described before concluding the review.

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