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Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (Forum to be brief) will take up a new initiative by participating in the preparing for a campaign around the right to water and sanitation (RTWS) in India. The initiative is funded by WaterAid, India and will be anchored by Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM).
If the RTWS has to become a legally enforceable and justiciable right it has to be accepted as a right guaranteed in the Constitution. Establishing such a right is a long drawn out process and a campaign for such a right will need a change of mindsets, new understanding and a variety of skills and inputs from a variety of organisations. Forum will partner such processes mainly through knowledge generation, dissemination, capacity building and policy dialogue.
Firstly, based on Forum’s work so far, Forum will contribute to building a broad consensus on RTWS amongst NGOs, CSOs, as well as politicians, bureaucrats, academics and media persons through the creation of awareness and concern. Secondly, it will take up the task of the articulation of the content of RTWS that will help build such a consensus from the presently very divergent views. The Forum will do this through looking at RTWS from an integrated perspective, setting it in the context of the specific characteristics of water, of other needs and demands on water, of the different sources of water and requirements of sustainability and thirdly, there is a need to take account of the fact that since the early 1990s, and more significantly, over the last 10 years, the water sector discourse has been drastically changing in India and the world over. The thrust seems to be shifting to managing water through smart governance with institutions and pricing becoming the key words. The state also has moved away from the earlier largely techno-centric approach and is showing an eagerness to move out of provisioning of water, mostly at the instance of multilateral donors and their insistence on a water sector reform package with new laws and policies, institutional reforms, creation of water entitlements and building partnerships between users and private interests. There is a need to unpack the process of reform both at the conceptual/theoretical level and also the way it is unfolding on the ground in the urban and the rural areas through the normative lens of sustainability, equity and democratisation and the RTWS discourse.
The work done by the Forum so far on the bio-physical and social-cultural peculiarities of water, on its regional, agro-climatic and socio-cultural variations; on conflicts around water, and on the water sector reform process and the changing water sector discourse will all feed into this process.
Forum will take up dissemination and outreach as a two way learning process. Apart from changing mainstream mindsets, the two-way process would also help in engaging with the as many stakeholders as possible and taking on board the perspectives, new experiences and knowledge they would bring to the table. All this would not only help build a strong social consensus around RTWS and its content and but also help build a network or a network of alliances around RTWS starting from the existing networks.
Do stay connected with this initiative and help take it forward.