New Delhi: Amid
growing concerns over the quality and availability of water, the
government is giving final shape to a policy that will allow
citizens and other stakeholders to access hydrological information
at the click of a mouse and also participate in informed
The draft Hydro-meteorological Data Dissemination Policy 2013
formulated by the water resources ministry is expected to be given
final shape next month and implemented by June.
The policy deals with ground water and surface water data obtained
by the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Central Ground Water
Board (CGWB). It also deals with classified data relating to
cross-boundary rivers such as the Indus, the Ganga and the
Brahmaputra and delineates the procedure for obtaining such
A senior official of the water resources ministry said the
comprehensive availability of data will aid researchers in
hydrological analysis, assist project developers in their design
and planning tasks and enable citizens to know about the quality
and quantity of ground water.
"Putting out hydrological information in an easy-to-access format
will serve an important public purpose. It will create awareness
about water, which is getting increasingly scarce," a senior
official, who could not be named as per government rules, told
He said students and researchers have to struggle for information
as it is scattered and is sometimes beyond their reach. "Once the
policy comes into force, they will get comprehensive information
on the click of a button. Citizens can click on their district in
the map and know about the ground water situation and water
quality. The policy will also facilitate rational debate and allow
for better decision making," the official pointed out.
He said the information will be available on IndiaWRIS (Water
Resources Information System) website in a standardized national
GIS (Geographic Information System) framework.
"With several states locked in disputes over water, the policy
will allow stakeholders to get information on the ground water
situation and reservoir storage and enable them to form informed
opinion on whether a state is in a position to release surface
water or not," said the official, who spoke on the condition of
The draft policy has classified the hydro-meteorological data into
three regions, given the sensitivities attached to information
relating to cross-boundary rivers.
Region-I includes the Indus basin and other rivers and their
tributaries discharging into Pakistan. Region-II includes the
Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin and other rivers and their
tributaries discharging into Bangladesh. Region-III includes the
remaining Indian rivers and their tributaries.
The policy states that data of Region-I and II is classified,
while that of Region-III is unclassified.
It also classifies users into three categories: Indian commercial
users, Indian non-commercial users and foreign users.
The draft policy states that classified data will be released for
specific purposes only and will be non-transferable. The request
for classified data needs to be accompanied by a secrecy
It also notes that a representative of the external affairs
ministry will be invited to meetings of the Classified Data
Committee if requests for such data are received from foreign
Indian non-commercial users will be supplied classified data free
of cost, except the cost of printing and photocopying, as in the
case of RTI (Right To Information) queries.
Indian commercial and foreign users will be supplied classified
data on payment of Rs 75,000 per site per annum.
The policy states that unclassified data not on the website can be
obtained free from the CWC without any secrecy undertaking.
The CWC and the CGWB will be the implementing agencies for the new
The CWC compiles data on parameters such as river water level,
river discharge, sediment flow and water quality. It also
observers selected meteorological parameters including rainfall,
humidity, solar radiation, maximum-minimum temperature and wind
The CGWB has around 15,600 observation wells in the country that
collect data about water level and water quality. The board
categorises blocks as safe, semi-critical, critical,
over-exploited and saline.
The hydro-meteorological data dissemination policy flows from the
National Water Policy 2012, which states that all hydrological
data, other than those classified on national security
considerations, should be in the public domain.
The official said it was vital to create awareness as India is
"water-stressed" with per capita availability estimated at 1,545
cubic metres. According to a global benchmark, sub-1,700 cubic
metres per capita availability makes a country "water stressed".
"Several parts of the country also face a problem of depletion of
ground water and its contamination through fluoride, arsenic,
iron, nitrate and heavy metals, apart from salinity. High
concentration of pollutants in ground water can cause severe
health problems," the official said.
The official said that 85 percent of of rural water supply in the
country depends on ground water as the source.
The water resources ministry has invited suggestions from all
stakeholders, as also from states, on the draft policy by the end
"The policy will be given final shape by April. Another month or
so will be required to place the data on the web in the required
format. We will be able to implement the policy from June," the
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at