| In as much as the ensuing drama both by political leaders and the real life actors, the Cauvery river water, sharing issue was in the news for some time now in India. The insufficient rains in the Cauvery upper river catchment area was blamed for this melee. Although the summer is on the anvil, the water problem continues as a perpetual issue. From Dr A. Ramachandran, former Under Secretary General, United Nations, at the inaugural address of Lake 2000, to Dr M. K. Ramesh of the National Law School of India University, to Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, noted scientist of India and finally Mr. S. M. Krishna, Chief Minister, Government of Karnataka, everybody have voiced their concerns for an effective policy to share, save, manage, and restore the water bodies at various stages. Dr. Swaminathan in an article on the issue aptly presents the initiatives taken by late Dr Anil Agarwal of Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. “Jal Swaraj” seems to be pertinent to the circumstance prevailing in the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
It would be very befitting to take a leaf from Kautilya’s “Arthasastra” translated by R. Shamasastry. A little over two thousand years, Kautilya in his Arthasastra, accounts for unifying all the matters concerning water bodies like lakes, rivers, and seas under a single authority. In Chapter XXVIII, Book II of Arthasastra, Kautilya refers to the Superintend of Ships. The Superintend of Ships is responsible for all the matters (accounts) relating to navigation not only on oceans and mouths of rivers, but also on lakes, natural or artificial, and rivers in the vicinity of human habitation and fortified cities. Although not much concern was given with respect to sharing of waters, as there did not arise a need then, the concept of unifying the matters concerning all water bodies under a single authority holds lot of importance in the present day’s conflicts for sharing the river waters.
At the recently concluded Lake 2002, Symposium on Conservation, Restoration and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems, at Indian Institute of Science, the need for a comprehensive policy recognizing the ecological, environmental, economic and socio-cultural values of the aquatic ecosystems was strongly felt. To accomplish such a vision there needs to be a committed political will and supporting environmental governance. Noting on the needs for comprehensive environmental governance, Dr M. K. Ramesh writes; "Law, policy and Practice in environmental management should emerge from and evolve out of people's needs and compulsions and be the result of crystallized homespun wisdom."
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Sudhira H. S.
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