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India’s Water Management – One Man Laid the Foundation, Another is Building An Edifice

On April 5th, the Central Water Commission (CWC), which is involved with the development and water management of the country, marked 75 years of its journey. In a phase when the nation under the administration of the Modi government is taking unprecedented measures in various aspects of water management such as inland waterways, Ganga cleaning, and Jal Shakti Abhiyan, it is imperative to think about the man who laid the foundation for all these things, way before the Modi government revived the spirit that was missing for decades.

Ambedkar’s Contribution to Water Management

The credit of laying foundation for India’s water management goes to Dr B R Ambedkar. The CWC that has completed 75 years is a brainchild of Dr B R Ambedkar.

The research paper by CWC, ‘Ambedkar’s Contribution to Water Resources Development’ notes, “India’s water policy emerged during the years that Dr. Ambedkar held this portfolio in the years 1942-46. It was during these years that, for the first time, the Labour Department formulated a policy for planned development of irrigation and electric power resources in the country on a comprehensive all-India scale, and against an all India background as a part of its post-war plan of economic development. The planning on the part of Dr. Ambedkar and his team in the Labour Department led to some basic developments, which laid the foundation of India’s water policy. It resulted in the establishment of a high-level technical organisation at the Centre, namely the Central Waterways, Irrigation, Navigation Commission (the present-day Central Water Commission)”.

The policy framework prepared at that time under the guidance of Dr. B R Ambedkar emphasised on these components.

(a) Adoption of a concept of River Valley Authority or corporation for the management and control of projects on inter-State rivers

(b) Adoption of the concept of regional and multipurpose development of River Valley Basin as a whole

(c) Establishment of administrative and technical expert bodies at the Centre. The Central Waterways, Navigation and Irrigation Commission set up for this purpose was the precursor of the present-day Central Water Commission, and the Central Technical Power Board that of the Central Electricity Authority.

PM Modi Revived Ambedkar’s Vision

It is well known that rapid progress has been taking place under the Modi government in developing India’s inland waterways. Two multi-modal terminals, one at Varanasi and another at Jharkhand’s Sahibganj are already operational.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, back in 2016 had credited Dr B R Ambedkar for giving India a river navigation policy. Many people may have known about the social reform efforts by Dr Ambedkar; however, they came to know about his works on water only after PM Modi spoke at length on this.

water management

PM Modi said on that occasion, “Many of us may not know that Babasaheb created two powerful institutions related to water, navigation and power. They were: The Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission and The Central Technical Power Board. Dr Ambedkar is also the architect of the water and river navigation policy in India. We have embarked on the development of National Waterways in keeping with Babasaheb’s vision and foresight. Dr Ambedkar emphasised importance of new waterways policy to lay the foundation for a regime of prosperity for millions of poor of India”.

A grand edifice is now being built at present on the foundations laid by Dr Ambedkar. These articles may give you an idea.

Developing India’s Inland Waterways: A Socio-Economic Revolution in the Making

Second Terminal on River Ganga – How History is Being Written

Cleaning the Decades of Dirt in Ganga- How the Results Are Visible in 2018

Conservation to Digitizing – What Are the Accomplishments of Jal Shakti Ministry?