Water Resources and Sustainable Development: Issues and Approaches to Management - An Indian Perspective

Brij Gopal


Over the past 25 years, ‘sustainable development’ has been the buzzword throughout the world and adopted in practically all spheres of human life. It was the theme of the United Nation’s Conference held this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the United Nation’s first Earth Summit in 1992.Sustainable development conceptually seeks to avoid environmental degradation while using the natural resources for economic development in a manner that ensres also both intra- and inter-generational equity. However, there seems to be little realisation, if any, of the fact that none of the natural resources or any area of human interest can be developed in isolation and that too sustainably without impinging upon other resources or areas. Water is a resource which unites together all the living and non-living and yet is sought to be controlled and partitioned by the humans for allocation among natural and human stakeholders. No other resource can be utilised and no economic development can be made without the input of water at some stage, and there is no developmental activity of the humans that does not affect the water resources. I review here the current status of water resources, and the issues and approaches concerning their management, with particular reference to India. I try to demonstrate that the current policies and approaches to management are highly sectoral and contribute neither to the sustainabilty of the water resources nor to the sustainable development of the nation. It calls for a systems approach that integrates the ’development’ of all natural resources and ‘sectors’ by taking into account the impacts of each activity on the others. While a river basin may be considered as the minimal spatial unit for planning and management, the impacts of many land-based activities in one river basin on the other basins within and even beyond the political boundaries should also be addressed.


Aquatic Ecosystems; Climate Change; Ecosystem Services; Environmental Flows; Human Impacts; IWRM; Sustainability; Water policy; Water Use Stakeholders; Water Quality;


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