Legal Issues Related to Water Sector Restructuring: Human Rights, Environment, Agriculture and Socio-Economic Aspects

Project Summary

The sustainable use of water resources has become a priority for all actors from the local to the international level. This is linked to the rapidly diminishing availability of fresh water and increasing scarcity some countries like India . In the face of growing water scarcity, most countries of the world are taking steps to use their water resources in a more sustainable way and implementing systemic changes to the use of water resources and water services. Since there is a direct link between economic development and water, this raises difficult environmental, social and legal issues from the need to balance ecological and human requirements for water and provide the infrastructure and facilities necessary to supply this basic right.

To meet these challenges, many countries are undergoing systemic changes to the use of water resources and the provision of water services. While in most countries water has been seen as a common heritage or as a common pool resource, and the supply and use of water has traditionally been a domain of public entities at the national, regional or local level, this traditional model is being challenged. The bias against the private appropriation of water along the lines of private property rights regimes established for other resources is increasingly being challenged in policy and law.

This project proposes to analyse the framework associated with the changing policy context for water use. Overall, the project will provide a theoretical framework for understanding the place of water in law and in particular the tension between the focus on water as an economic good and the focus on water as a human right, two largely opposed dimensions whose interactions have not yet been fully uncovered. It will concentrate on a study of existing water regulatory frameworks related to the partial or full privatisation of different aspects of water resources use in developed and developing countries. The project aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the multifaceted water-related legal frameworks that govern water resources use at the local, national and international levels. While substantial research on various aspects of water resources use at the national and international level has been previously undertaken, this project will fill the need to provide a new understanding of water-related legal frameworks in the context of the on-going restructuring of the water sector and the shift towards seeing water mainly as an economic good.

The focus of this project on the Indian situation will provide a way to examine in detail the evolving international legal and institutional framework, as well as the evolving Indian legal and institutional framework concerning water use. This project will closely analyse the role of international institutions such as the World Bank in influencing law and policy making at the national and state level and examine the extent to which compliance with existing international law, such as environment and human rights law, is relevant in water use law and policy frameworks at the national level. This analysis should provide important insights for the future development of water law and policy at the international level as well as in India .

The main objectives of the project are:

  • To critically analyse legal issues arising under international law, such as environment and human rights provisions, concerning the economic, environmental and social consequences of proposed water regulatory changes and their implementation at the national level.
  • To study the broader impacts of water sector restructuring, including regulatory, environmental (water quality), and human rights aspects, as well as other related issues such as the links between water and agriculture.
  • To examine the situation in India regarding the social, environmental and economic problems stemming from water restructuring.
  • To develop practical and innovative suggestions to the problems identified with existing water restructuring projects, including enhancing participation and transparency in national and international decision-making processes.
  • To formulate specific proposals applicable to the situation in India in the framework of water resources use.