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05 February, 2008

Caste-based discrimination in access to water resources

Following is a message from an NGO in Orissa seeking information on caste-based discrimination in access to water

I am associated with Kalpataru (a registered voluntary organization) working on water and forest management in the Kishorenagar Block of Angul District, Orissa. As part of our work, we have encountered difficulties in effective collective action in the management of traditional water bodies like tanks and ponds. This is due to the existing exclusion and discrimination prevailing in our villages.

In 1965, the United Nations formed the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The CERD is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. However, despite prolonged efforts by UN, studies show that some form of discrimination and exclusion exists in most UN member countries.

On this front, India always has been worst in terms of caste-based discrimination, with certain castes being historically excluded, socially as well as physically, from society. Additionally, their access to land and water resources is limited, and hence food security is always under threat.

Water is a common property but this never works in practice. Access to common property water resources, especially traditional wells, tanks and modern watershed, tube wells, and water harvesting structures is also restricted or unequal.

In this context I would request members to provide their inputs on the following:

· Evidence and documentation of caste-based discrimination and exclusion in using the water resources at the national and regional level and the consequences/ impact (if any)

· Experiences on the role NGOs have played in reducing caste-based discrimination and social exclusion

· Experiences with collective action in the management of Common Property Water Resources, and insights on the effectiveness of this approach, given the backdrop of caste based discrimination and exclusion

· Information on the legal measures available, as well as alternative measures to solve the water crisis for the socially excluded

These inputs will help us strive towards achieving inclusive growth and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and also help Kalpataru devise measures to tackle the challenge posed by caste-based discrimination in the management of natural resources. We look forward to your contributions and will acknowledge them in our work.


Sarbeswar Sahoo
Kalpataru, Orissa

Responses to this request may kindly be dsent to Nitya Jacob, Resource Person and Moderator for the Water Community of Solution Exchange. His email:

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