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Water sector: CPI(M) disputes Centre's claims

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MARCH 27. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) again joined issue with the BJP over its `India Shining' campaign, disputing the claims made by the Government in the water sector.

The CPI(M) politburo member, Sitaram Yechury, in a rejoinder, said that under the NDA Government the water problem in the country has assumed serious proportions, with over 200 million people having no access to potable water. "Scarcity and poor quality drinking water has led to the emergence of a huge bottled water industry, with drinking water being sold at the price of milk," he said.

The party in a statement said that by conservative estimates only 2,00,000 villages were partially covered by drinking water schemes and there were problems of quality in the existing water sources in over 2,50,000 villages.

It also said that according to reports from various international agencies the water scarcity in the country would worsen with per capita availability dropping to 1,341 by 2025. "Urban water supply has become notorious for its irregularity and poor quality, and per capita availability of fresh water in the country has dropped from 5,177 cubic metres in 1951 to 1,869 in 2001," Mr. Yechury said.

The CPI(M) leader said the Government's emphasis on interlinking of rivers and privatisation of water would only end up aggravating the situation.

"The interlinking project apart from the huge costs involved would also need a long gestation period of about 40 years by which time the priority and the requirement of the country will also change."

He said several State Governments, including the BJP Government in Gujarat, had objected to the diversion of water from rivers passing through their States.

Charging the NDA Government with allowing private and corporate parties to exploit groundwater to make up for the scarcity in the urban areas, Mr. Yechury said groundwater has been allowed to become the private property of the rich, and the NDA has shown little desire to regulate or control the trend. "The Government's water policy adopts an explicit position in favour of privatisation of water resources," he said.

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