Funding for rural drinking water reduced in 2018-19 budget
- Approximately 2.1 billion people all over the world still are unable to access safe water sources within their home
- 85 per cent of rural drinking water supply and 50 per cent of urban drinking water supply come from groundwater sources
- Less than 50% habitations have access to the mandated 55 litres of water per day.
- It is estimated that about 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are water-related.
- Article 47 conferring the duty of providing clean drinking water and improving public health standards to the State.
- United Nations (UN) had recognized the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right in 2010
- The United Nations and other organizations estimate that each person requires access to a minimum of 20 to 50 liters of water per day for drinking, food preparation, and personal hygiene.
- SDG goal 6: The countries of the world have to achieve universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene to all by 2030
Importance of rural drinking
• Improve health: Adequate drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene are all essential ingredients to ensure good health. Lack of safe drinking water poses many health hazards such as diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid which have seen millions of registered cases
• Improve economic productivity: Economic opportunities are routinely lost to the impacts of rampant illness and the time-consuming processes of acquiring water where it is not readily available.
• Education: Education suffers when sick children miss school.
- Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) (1972-73): It was to ensure provision of adequate drinking water supply to the rural community through the Public Health Engineering System.
- Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (1991-92): It stress on water quality, appropriate technology intervention, human resource development support and other related activities.
- Swajaldhara (2002): It started to involve community in planning, implementation and management of drinking water related schemes
- National Rural Drinking Water Programme (2009): It aimed to provide with the funds to build the infrastructure, such as piped connections, to deliver water to all rural habitations, government schools, and anganwadis
National Water Quality Sub-Mission (NWQSM) (2017): It is a sub-programme under NRDWP. It aims to cover all rural population in Arsenic/Fluoride affected habitations with clean drinking water on a sustainable basis
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India submitted its report on ‘National Rural Drinking Water Programme’ on August 7, 2018. Key findings and recommendations of the CAG include:
1. Underperformance of the scheme: It aimed to provide 50% of rural population potable drinking water (55 litres per capita per day) by piped water supply. Of this, only 18% of rural population was provided potable drinking water. It also sought to give household connections to 35% of rural households. Of this, only 17% of rural households were given household connections.
2. Planning and delivery mechanism: Deficiencies were found in the preparation and scrutiny of annual action plans such as:
• lack of stakeholder and community participation,
• non-inclusion of minimum service level of water in schemes,
3. Fund management and funding: The availability of funds declined during 2013-14 and 2016-17 due to reduced central allocation and inability of states to increase their own financial commitment.
Issues with rural drinking water:
- Access: A WaterAid report in 2016 ranked India among the worst countries in the world for the number of people without safe water. An estimated 76 million people in India have no access to a safe water supply
- Funding: In 2014-15, only 0.6% of total government funding was allocated to NRDWP and by 2018-19 even this had shrunk to 0.2%. Along with this, in 2017-18, just 72% of allocated funds were spent by NRDWP.
- Monitoring: Lack of monitoring of the implemented water supply system led to closure of various water distribution system
- Water Quality: The quality of water available to the country is in a very poor state. It is affected by sewage discharge, surface runoff of rainwater caused due to urbanisation, and untreated discharge from industries.
- Regional disparity: Some states such as Gujarat, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh have provided piped water to more than half the rural households, while others such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have minimal (less than 5%) piped water coverage.
- Inadequate focus on surface water: There was inadequate focus on surface water-based schemes and 98% of the schemes, including piped water schemes continued to be based on ground water resources.
- Village water and sanitation committee (VWSC) not in focus in NRDWP: VWSC’s key work is to create action plan for ensuring drinking water security at the village. The 2016-17 data from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation says out of over 600,000 villages in India, only 18,429 have a VWSC.
Steps to be taken
- Improve water supply system: Renovation and Upgrading the water supply infrastructure and networks to reduce water losses from the storage, transmission, and distribution system
- Link with sanitation programme: NRDWP primarily focuses on providing potable water through piped household connections, but this water can be used for other purposes, including sanitation.
- Improve use of surface water: One has to improve the ways in which we collect and store water so as to avoid contamination while collection, storage and use.
- Improve funding: More investment is required to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal of clean drinking water for all by 2030.
- Standardised data on drinking water: Adequate data about the drinking water infrastructure, water quality etc. is of great importance. Without quality data, accurate and effective policy decisions are not possible.
- Water ATM and desalination programme: these schemes would help to improve accessibility and make availability of clean water cost effective.
- Community participation: With the decentralisation of programmes for water supply it is essential that communities and institutions like panchayats are actively involved in the planning, implementation and execution of programmes for water supply.
Many independent organizations have taken up the initiative and are tackling the problem of availability, affordability and accessibility with purity under a novel approach for rural India. One such private sector initiative is JanaJal, who install and operate safe drinking water ATMs in India.
Providing safe and assured drinking water to everyone requires a national focus. Safe drinking water and sanitation are the two vital components of population-wide preventive services in public health systems. India needs mission mode programme like swachh bharat abhiyan to address the issue of sanitation.