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Organizational history of the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

1. The history of the subject ‘Irrigation & Power’ dates back to 1855 when it was made the responsibility of the then newly created Department of the Public Works but not much impetus was given to irrigation work till the famine of 1858, when it was decided to take up canal construction work on an extensive scale and accordingly, an Inspector General of Canals was appointed. In 1863, taking into consideration the importance attached to development of irrigation facilities in the country, it was decided to place this subject under the charge of an irrigation expert, with the designation of Inspector General of Irrigation.  He functioned under the administrative control of Secretary, Public Works Department. 

2. Under the Government of India Act 1919, irrigation became a Provincial subject and the Government of India’s responsibility was confined to advice, co-ordination and settlement of disputes over right on the water of Inter-Provincial Rivers.  On the recommendation of the In-charge Committee, Public Works   Department was merged with the Department of Industry in 1923 and a combined department known as ‘Department of Industries and Labour’ looked after the subject of ‘Irrigation and Power. A Central Board of Irrigation was also constituted in 1927. In 1937, the Department of Industry and Labour was bifurcated into the Department of Communication and Department of Labour. The latter was assigned the work relating to Irrigation and Power.  Thereafter, on the recommendation of the Secretariat Re-organization Committee, Department of Works, Mines and Power, was created which looked after the subject of ‘Irrigation and Power’. In 1951, a new Ministry of National Resources and Scientific Research was set up and it took over the subject of ‘Irrigation and Power’ from the Ministry of Works, Mines and Power.  

3. A separate Ministry of Irrigation and Power was set up in 1952 to look after the subject of irrigation. In the wake of unprecedented floods, a Flood Control Board was constituted to consider flood control programme at the highest level. In 1969, an Irrigation Commission was set up to go into the matter of future irrigation development programme in the country in a comprehensive manner. To help in ensuring unified and coordinated programme for the speedy implementation of Irrigation and Command Area Development Projects, as well as for providing other inputs for maximizing agricultural produce, a separate Department of Irrigation was set up in November, 1974 under the reconstituted Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, consequent upon the bifurcation of erstwhile Ministry of Irrigation and Power. 

4. In January 1980, Department of Irrigation came under the new Ministry of Energy and Irrigation.  On 09.06.1980, the then Ministry of Energy and Irrigation was bifurcated and the erstwhile Department of Irrigation was raised to the level of Ministry with a view to having a coordinated and comprehensive view of the entire irrigation sector. In addition to major and medium irrigation, major irrigation sector, both surface and ground, as Command Area Development Programme were brought within the purview of Ministry of Irrigation.

5. The following items of work were transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Agriculture and Cooperation) to the Ministry of Irrigation w.e.f. 22.07.1980:

(a) Irrigation for agricultural purpose

(b) Minor and emergency irrigation

(c)  Ground water exploration

6. In January 1985, the Ministry of Irrigation was once again combined under the Ministry of Irrigation and Power.  However, in re-organization of the Ministries of the Central Government in September 1985, the then Ministry of Irrigation and Power was bifurcated and the Department of Irrigation was re-constituted as the Ministry of Water Resources.  This recognition of the necessity of planning for the development of the country’s water resources in a coordinated manner resulted in a change in the character of the Ministry and the Ministry had to assume a nodal role in regard to all matters, concerning the country’s water resources. 

7. With the nomenclature of the Ministry as the Ministry of Water Resources, perspective planning was taken up to fulfill the role expected by the Ministry.  In this new perspective, calling for overall planning and coordination of all aspects of the development of the country’s water resources, it was felt necessary to formulate a National Water Policy, laying down, inter-alia, priorities for various uses of water.

8. National Water Resources Council was constituted under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister to look into this aspect.  The National Water Resources Council (NWRC) adopted the National Water Policy in September 1987. National Water Board was constituted in September, 1990 with Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources as Chairman and Chief Secretaries of all the States / UTs, Secretaries of concerned Union Ministries and Chairman, Central Water Commission, as Members, in order to review the progress of implementation of the stipulations of the National Water Policy for reporting to the NWRC and also initiate effective measures for systematic development of the country’s water resources.

9. The National Water Resources Council adopted the revised ‘National Water Policy-2002’ and passed a resolution to this effect in its 5th meeting held on 1st April, 2002 at New Delhi under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister. Thereafter, the National Water Board considered the further revised Draft National Water Policy 2012, as recommended by the Drafting Committee, at its 14th Meeting held on 7th June, 2012 and the same was again circulated amongst all the States and Central Ministries/ Departments concerned for comments. The Council adopted the NWP 2012 as per deliberation in its 6th Meeting held on 28th December, 2012. The National Water Policy, 2012 was released on 8th April, 2013 during the India Water Week, 2013. 

10. The Centrally Sponsored scheme - Rationalization of Minor Irrigation Statistics (RMlS) was launched in 1987-88 and is being implemented by Minor Irrigation (Stat.) Wing of the Ministry through State Governments. It is now renamed as "Irrigation Census" which is a Centrally Sponsored scheme with 100% Central funding.

The objective of the scheme is to build a comprehensive and reliable database in the Minor Irrigation Sector for effective planning and policy making. Five Minor Irrigation Censuses with reference years 1986-87, 1993-94, 2000-01, 2006-07 and 2013-14 have been conducted so far.

The major activities under the scheme are (i) conduct of 6th Minor Irrigation Census with reference year 2017-18 and (ii) conduct of a Census of Water Bodies which is taken up for the first time.

11. For comprehensive improvement of water bodies, two schemes - Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of Water Bodies, one with external assistance and the other with domestic support for implementation during XI Plan Period was approved by the Government. The scheme of RRR of water bodies include the catchment area treatment, command area development, capacity building of stakeholders and increased availability of drinking water.

12. The Scheme ‘R&D Programme in Water sector’ aims to promote research in water sector through various organizations of MoWR, RD&GR and provide financial assistance to promote research work in the field of water resources engineering through academician/experts in Universities, IITs, NITs, recognized   R&D laboratories, Water Resources/ Irrigation Departments of Central and State Governments and NGOs and aided/unaided Private Institutions for conducting research in water sector.

The R & D activities undertaken in the Scheme are essential for the management and development of water resources of the country.  These activities are playing key role for creation and implementation of research and knowledgebase for the State Governments/Union Territories, Institutions and other stakeholders working in the water sector. The activities undertaken under this Scheme are:

(a) R&D activities through Apex Research Organizations at National level: Central Water and Power Research Station(CWPRS), Pune, Central Soil and Material Research Station(CSMRS), National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), Roorkee and Central Water Commission (CWC).

(b) Sponsoring and Coordinating research in water sector through Educational Institutes, Indian Institution, NGOs and Indian Private Institutes in collaboration with Government Institutes

(c) Dissemination of research findings and technology transfer and International Collaborations

(d) Evaluation of R&D Activities and Consultancies

13. The Government of India launched National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) on 30th June, 2008, which inter-alia envisages the approach to be adopted to meet the challenges of impact of climate change through eight National Missions including National Water Mission (NWM). Ministry of Water Resources has set up National Water Mission with the main objective of “conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring its more equitable distribution both across and within States through integrated water resources development and management”. The Union Cabinet approved a “Comprehensive Mission Document” of the NWM on 6.4.2011 with following five goals:-

a)    Comprehensive Water Data Base in Public Domain and Assessment of Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources.
b)    Promotion of Citizen and State Action for Water Conservation, Augmentation and Preservation.
c)    Focused Attention to Vulnerable Areas including Over-exploited Areas.
d)    Increasing Water Use Efficiency by 20%.
e)    Promotion of Basin Level and Integrated Water Resources Management.

14. On 31.7.2014, the Ministry was renamed as “Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation”. The following additional items of work have been assigned to the Ministry:-

a)    National Ganga River Basin Authority including the Mission Directorate, National Mission for Clean Ganga and other related matters of Ganga Rejuvenation.
b)    Conservation, development, management and abatement of pollution in river Ganga and its tributaries.

 15.  On 14.06.2019, the Ministry has been renamed as “Ministry of Jal Shakti “Jal Shakti Mantralaya)” with two Departments i.e. Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (Jal Sansadhan, Nadi Vikas Aur Ganga Sanrakshan Vibhag) and Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (Peya Jal Aur Swachhata Vibhag)”. The work assigned to Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation are:-

a)    Development, conservation and management of water as a national resource; overall national perspective of water planning and coordination in relation to diverse uses of water and interlinking of rivers;
b)    National Water Resources Council;
c)    General Policy, technical assistance, research and development training and all matters relating to irrigation, including multi-purpose, major, medium, minor and emergency irrigation works; hydraulic structures for navigation and hydro-power; tube wells and groundwater exploration and exploitation; protection and preservation of ground water resources; conjunctive use of surface and ground water, irrigation for agricultural purposes, water management, command area development; management of reservoirs and reservoir sedimentation; flood (control) management, drainage, drought proofing, water logging and sea erosion problems; dam safety;
d)    Regulation and development of Inter-State rivers and river valleys. Implementation of Awards of Tribunals through Schemes, River Boards;
e)    Water laws, legislation;
f)     Water quality assessment; and
g)    Cadre control and management of the Central Water Engineering Services (Group A).
h)    International organizations, commissions and conferences relating to water resources development and management, drainage and flood control;
i)      International Water Law;
j)      Matters relating to rivers common to India and neighboring countries; the Joint Rivers Commission with Bangladesh, the Indus Waters Treaty 1960; the Permanent Indus Commission;
k)    Bilateral and external assistance and cooperation programmes in the field of water resources development.

16. Presently, the following Attached & Subordinate Offices, Statutory Bodies, Registered Societies and Public Sector Undertakings are working under the control of the Department of Water Resources, RD & GR:-

Attached Offices
1.    Central Water Commission (CWC)
2.    Central Soil & Materials Research Station (CSMRS)
Subordinate Offices
3.    Central Ground Water Board (CGWB)
4.    Central Water & Power Research Station (CWPRS)
5.    Bansagar Control Board (BCB)
6.    Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee (SSCAC)
7.    Ganga Flood Control Commission (GFCC)
8.    Farakka Barrage Project (FBP)
9.    Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB)
10.  National Water Information Centre (NWIC)
Statutory Bodies
11.  Tungabhadra Board (TB)
12.  Betwa River Board (BRB)
13.  Brahmaputra Board (BB)
14.  Godavari River Management Board (GRMB)
15.  Krishna River Management Board (KRMB)
Corporate Bodies
16.  Narmada Control Authority (NCA)
17.  Cauvery Water Management Authority
Registered Societies/ Autonomous Bodies
18.  National Water Development Agency (NWDA)
19.  National Institute of Hydrology (NIH)
20.  North Eastern Regional Institute of Water and Land Management (NERIWALM)
21.  National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)
22.  Polavaram Project Authority (PPA)
Public Sector Undertakings
23.  National Projects Construction Corporation Limited (NPCC Ltd.)

24.  Water & Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS Ltd.)