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Water: The Looming Crisis in India analyzes the key issues in developing national freshwater policies for the mainland countries of the South Asian sub-continent. Ray suggests that freshwater policy must cover all aspects of physical environment and human life, by noting that food and drought management are parts of freshwater policy and acknowledging that water is a scarce natural resource and has economic value. He calls for the development of basin-wide policies to minimize conflicts within riparian countries, as well as a freshwater policy baseline to minimize internal conflicts on water sharing arrangements. By pointing out the need for full participation of all stakeholders in developing a baseline policy including people displaced by the construction of large dams, Ray suggests a new system in which riparian countries are guaranteed that no water-related project proceeds without a transparently developed environmental impact assessment and evaluation of alternative options.
Providing secure supplies of potable water is now of central concern to all societies and made the more so as we face climate change and try to determine what our adaptive response should be. The lessons Ray has drawn from experience in developing freshwater policy in India may be applied in almost all countries. The problems of cross-boundary aspects of regional water demands, the political complexity of reaching accommodation with competing jurisdictions, the stresses created when supplies cannot keep up with demand due to population increase and increasing per capita consumption, the importance of environmental considerations and the constraints on financial resources are all issues faced in varying degree by nations large and small.
The path dependencies created by the political boundaries and institutional arrangements as well as the prevailing technology and the cultural values and behavioral norms all affect the ways in which societies address the current water crisis. Ray's study is a model we should use in trying to understand and then resolve the problems arising from the provision of freshwater supplies, whether the problems are within and between the regions in one country or raise trans-boundary issues. Ray's work is grounded in a detailed analysis of the situation in India, but its ambition is justifiably painted on a larger canvas.
Ray has made a singular contribution to the debate and his book deserves to be closely studied by all those who have a concern for the environment and for the peaceful management of tensions arising from the exploitation of the limited supplies of freshwater.
The non-availability of freshwater will have disastrous socio-economic and political consequences, as well as create unprecedented environmental catastrophes. Further, the rise of China, which controls about 90 percent of Asia's freshwater supply and is a water-scarce country herself, will demand more water from two of the Himalayan rivers that flow through the sub-continent. As no two Asian superpowers have ever existed side by side, the rise of India as an economic superpower will complicate the situation further.
Within this context, the book deals with a range of issues which India and other sub-continental countries must bring into their policy considerations to ensure sustainable socio-economic development and political stability in a rapidly changing global environment. I commend the author for professionally addressing these issues and recommend the book to anyone concerned with water and environmental issues.
Chapter 2 1: The Water Environment Chapter 3 2: Water Policy: An Anatomy Chapter 4 3: International Rivers: Global Conventions, Regulations, and India Chapter 5 4: Future Demand for Water and Available Options Chapter 6 5: The River-Linking Project Chapter 8 6: Environmental Perspectives Chapter 9 7: Economic and Financial Perspectives Chapter 10 8: Political and Governmental Perspectives Chapter 11 9: Regional Perspectives: Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and China Chapter 13 10: Reflections