ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Maharashtra's Water Politics

Fate of the Regulatory Authority

Maharashtra was the first Indian state to legislate an independent water regulatory authority in 2005. This decision was driven as much by the World Bank-promoted water sector reforms as by domestic politics. Irrigation backlogs and regional imbalances have been the main feature of water politics whose roots go back to the formation of the state. The state government's desire to prioritise water allocation for industrial use in its State Water Policy 2003 met with strong resistance from people in Vidarbha. Although irrigation was eventually prioritised above industry, politics also led to the undermining of the independent water regulatory authority legislated as an essential element of the water sector reforms.

An independent regulatory authority called the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) was legislated into existence with the important agenda of removing “some power from existing water bureaucracies and to ensure that reforms are successfully implemented” (Cullet and Gupta 2009: 141). One important aspect of the water reforms as set out in the policy was the removal of regional imbalances and this was set as one of the tasks before the independent regulatory authority.

This article explores the political aspects of Maharashtra’s water sector reforms in the context of regional imbalances in the irrigation sector. It gives a background of the politics around regional disparities and irrigation backlogs, analyses the shifts in policies and laws in the context of the regional issues and concludes with the politics of water regulation in Maharashtra.

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