Comparison of Water Rights Systems in India and China

The abundance of any resource implies lesser competition for the resource and the need for fewer rules to manage that resource optimally.  This is true for water resources as well. However, as water resources become scarce and the competition for water use intensifies, a water rights system is needed to manage water resources.

Water rights are property rights of water resources and include ownership, water use rights, the right of disposal and usufruct. The water rights system is a “system of rules that define, allocates, adjusts, protects and exercises water rights and makes clear the right, responsibility and benefit between different governments, between government and users and between users.”

This is the basis of water resources management under the condition of water shortage, and it is also a necessary precondition of water rights trading, where those with greater access offer the resource to those who need it more.

The paper compares the water rights systems of China and India from two aspects: the characteristics of the water rights system and its implementation effects. The authors have chosen six indicators of the characteristics of the water rights system.

These are the ownership of water rights, the characteristics of water use rights, the relationship between the ownership of water and water use rights/water withdrawal rights, the relationship between surface water rights and groundwater rights, the system of water resources fees or taxes, and the tradability of water rights.

This summary is based on the paper Comparative analysis of water rights entitlements in India and ChinaThe paper is a part of a special issue of Water Policy; Comparing Water Resources Management in China and India: Policy Design, Institutional Structure and Governance. 

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