7 PM | A jan andolan for water | 17th August, 2019

Context: Jal Jeevan Mission that aims to supply water to all households by 2024.

More in news:  On August 15, during the Independence Day speech Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Jal Jeevan Mission.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • Jal Jeevan Mission is to ensure HarGharJal (piped water supply) to all rural households by 2024.
  • A New Ministry-“Jal Shakti Mantralaya” to manage water resources and water supply in an integrated and holistic manner with the State Governments has been created.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply side management of water at the local level, including creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country. 

Key functions of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation

  • As per the Constitution, supply of water and sanitation are state subjects which mean that states regulate and provide these services. 
  • The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is primarily responsible for policy planning, funding, and coordination of programs for:
    • safe drinking water
    • sanitation, in rural areas. 
  • From 1999 till 2011, the Ministry operated as a Department under the Ministry of Rural Development.  In 2011, the Department was made an independent Ministry. 
  • Presently, the Ministry oversees the implementation of two key schemes of the government:
    • Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G)
    • National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP).

Implementation status of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme:

  • The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) aims at assisting states in providing adequate and safe drinking water to the rural population in the country.
  • As of February 2018, 74% habitations are fully covered (receiving 55 litres per capita per day), and 22% habitations are partially covered (receiving less than 55 litres per capita per day). 
  • The Ministry aims to cover 90% rural households with piped water supply and 80% rural households with tap connections by 2022. 
  • The Estimates Committee of Parliament (2015) observed that piped water supply was available to only 47% of rural habitations, out of which only 15% had household tap connections.

Need of Piped water:

  • The World Bank estimates that 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices.
  • According to World Bank, more than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhea in India alone. 
  • By 2020, India will be formally categorized as a “water stressed” country, one where per capita availability of water is less than 1,000 cubic metres or less.
  • A June 2018 Niti Ayog report grimly forecasts water demand will be twice the present supply and India could lose up to 6 per cent of its GDP.
  • In 2017, his government launched the Har Ghar Jal programme with the same objective. It was to ensure safe drinking water to all household with piped supply being the main mode. 
  • Contamination of drinking water:  It has been noted that NRDWP is over-dependant on ground water.  However, ground water is contaminated in over 20 states.  According to NITI Aayog, nearly 70 per cent of all of the country’s fresh water sources are contaminated. 
  • For instance, high arsenic contamination has been found in 68 districts of 10 states.  These states are Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, and Karnataka.
  • Chemical contamination of ground water has also been reported due to deeper drilling for drinking water sources. 
  • It has been recommended that out of the total funds for NRDWP, allocation for water quality monitoring and surveillance should not be less than 5%.Presently, it is 3% of the total funds.  It has also been suggested that water quality laboratories for water testing should be set up throughout the country.
  • As the new target sets in, India will continue to be haunted by what is known as the “slippage” problem. It means villages/habitations covered with safe drinking water facilities slip back to ‘not-covered’ status due to various reasons that include drying up of the source or collapse of the facilities due to non-maintenances. According to the CAG report, which analysed the state of rural water supply between 2012 and 2017, 4.76 lakh habitations had slipped from ‘fully covered’ to ‘partially covered’ state.

Challenges:

  • There has been the inadequate attention to taking concrete measures to sustain the source of the water, in most cases groundwater. 
  • The proposed Jal Jeevan Mission will make source sustainability measures mandatory prior to pumping and distributing water to households.
  • In the traditional approach, the provision of drinking water was viewed primarily as an engineering solution, with schemes being planned and executed by the public health and engineering departments.

Way forward:

Water is an ideal sector for the applicability of the principle of subsidiary that is the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The ongoing Jal Shakti Abhiyan will help in creating awareness about the importance of integrating source sustainability and water reuse with the provision of household water supply. This integrated approach to decentralized, community managed, and sustainable water management is the backbone of the government’s plan to ensure that every household gets the benefits of water supply. The Jal Jeevan Mission will be a major step towards improving our people’s ease of living.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/a-jan-andolan-for-water-ministry-of-jal-shakti-groundwater-in-india-5911248/

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