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Groundwater Governance: Backing CPR Principles with a Process- based Approach

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Kulkarni, Himanshu; Shankar, P. S. Vijay; Krishnan, Sunderrajan
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7340
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): groundwater
common pool resources
Abstract: "Access to groundwater is 'open', and therefore difficult to control or restrict, despite its Common Pool nature. The fugitive character of groundwater is difficult to define uniquely, given the range of conditions controlling the accumulation and movement of groundwater resources. India is now the largest user of groundwater in the world. This has led to many problems, the foremost being the high degree of groundwater vulnerability – likely to affect at least 60% of India’s population. This vulnerability has been a consequence of many factors, and therefore, poses multiple challenges in developing responses. The rapid shift from a community-based to individual “access” imposes hurdles in efforts relating to demand-side community management of groundwater. Complex issues surrounding the mismatch between administrative, hydrologic and aquifer boundaries have imposed limitations on clear-cut guidelines of groundwater governance. Further, India’s water focus has been embedded in the management of surface-water systems, developed through public funding, leaving groundwater resources development in the hands of individuals and driven by private investment. Finally, the rigid separation in sectoral governance while looking at water--drinking water remains separate from irrigation, for ‘institutional’ convenience--widens the divide between ‘uses’. Notwithstanding limitations on managing groundwater as a ‘common pool’ resource, it has become imperative for India to develop a ‘governance’ process that will back efficient, equitable and sustainable management of groundwater on the ground. India’s groundwater governance vision must combine efficiency in supply, ensures equitable access and resource management through demand-regulation and ensures a process of data gathering that is oriented towards enabling site and situation-specific decision support to ensure sustainability of groundwater availability and quality. Such governance requires a healthy combination of collaborations, law making, facilitation, piloting and space for evolving a separate policy on groundwater for the country. Some promising ongoing initiatives in India are currently looking into some of these factors and could form the basis of developing clearer CPR-based groundwater governance in India."

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