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Submitted by Ashwini Saxena on
Water, contrary to the general feeling, is not freely available. I have been working in the desert district of Barmer in Rajasthan, India and see how much precious and rare, the commodity that we take for granted, is. Out of 237 water zones, only 30 odd are not in the so-called dark zone (where ground water has been tapped more than appropriate)in the state. What does it mean, it does not mean jsut the shortage of wtaer, it actually means poor water management. Going by the argument that water is a natural resource and a public asset, the control on water bodies by government has to be very strict, this then even amounts to not allow farmers to have dug wells/ borewells for watering the fields. But this becomes an unviable option and thus water though a public asset, gets extracted by all. The challenge that governments face is how to regulate this, who should be/ should not be allowed to extract water, who is to decide as to what is the amount necessary for a person/ household/ factory and so on. This where a market based approach comes in and gets its merit, obviously with the caveat that it tends to make it a more of a commodity than a natural resource. Invariably the private sector has put in the resources to tap very large amounts of ground water and sell it at a premium price. They use the natural (public) resource and charge for it. The way of circumventing this is evidnet the moment you ask for a bill of the wtaer supplied. The bill is for delivery of water, which actually means simply transportation of water. This kind of commercial extraction of water has led to severe water crisis, further fuelled by the lack of rains and any perennial water bearing rivers. Thus while there is little that anyone can do in terms of the raw material supply (i.e. water), the pumping out is completely unregulated/ unmanaged. If this can be curbed a lot fo maladies can be remedied.