Clean drinking water to all: Initiatives and challenges – Explained Pointwise

Introduction

Recently Telangana government has achieved 100% tap water connections to all schools and Angan Wadi Centres (AWCs) under 100 day Special Campaign. The other states like Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Haryana and Tamil Nadu also achieved this target.

Under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) the central government also aims to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household in India by 2024. Further, the recent budget expanded the Jal Jeevan Mission to urban areas as well. But to provide clean drinking water, the government has to do much more than just providing the water connections.

Important aspects of Jal Jeevan Mission

The JJM aims to envisage a supply of 55 litres of water per person per day. Important aspects of the Jal Jeevan mission are,

  1. The JJM will focus on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level.
  2. It will implement source sustainability measures to recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, rainwater harvesting.
  3. The Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across India.
  4. The JJM will generate maximum community participation in the form of ‘Jan Andolan to achieve the target.

Other schemes aimed towards providing Drinking water

  1. Swajal Yojana: It is a community-owned drinking water program for sustained piped drinking water supply powered by solar energy. It was launched in 115 aspirational districts of India.
  2. Jal Mani Programme: It aims to provide value and quality addition to the ongoing Rural Drinking Water Supply Programme to mainly address the water quality. The aim is achieved by installing Stand-Alone Purification System in rural Schools
  3. Atal Bhujal Yojana: It is a Central Sector Scheme aims to improve groundwater management through community participation in identified priority areas in seven States

What are the advantages of providing clean drinking water?

  1. India will face fewer water-borne diseases. According to a study, more than 21% of the country’s diseases are water-related. In 2015 alone, India lost over 1 lakh children under the age of five due to diarrheal diseases. It is preventable if India provides clean water to its population.
  2. Fulfilling SDG: By providing clean water and sanitation to all, India can achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation for all). Along with that, India can also achieve other SDGs as well such as good health and well-being, etc.
  3. Recharge of groundwater level: According to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), India’s water tables are declining at the rate of 0.3 meters per year.  Clean water through wastewater management may reduce the demand for groundwater. This will improve the groundwater table.
  4. JJM and other schemes provide employment opportunities. Successful implementation of the National Skill Development Mission has created a pool of skilled manpower in plumbing, masonry, fitting, electricity, etc. The JJM implementation will utilize their skills and also provide employment opportunities to the migrant labours returning home.
    • For example, Recently Ministry of Jal Shakti deployed labourers returning to their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Jal Jeevan Missions.
  5. Better local infrastructure – Apart from solving the drinking water problem, the schemes will also improve better infrastructure facilities especially in rural India. Infrastructure facilities will be in the form of water management structures, supporting infrastructures in-home, streets, etc.

What are the challenges associated with providing clean drinking water?

  1. Water is a state subject. So, Centre intervention in this domain is limited. The States also look into the issue of drinking water problem as their individual problem (not the problem of other states). This leads to interstate disputes for water and prevents them from enacting a holistic solution.
  2. India doesn’t have enough water for its population. India has 16% of the global population, but only 4% of freshwater resources. One billion people in India are living in water-scarce areas. So, providing enough drinking water to all is a great challenge with limited resources.
  3. Providing quality piped water will be a great challenge. In the majority of the Metro cities and Urban areas, demand for water is higher than the supply. To compensate for the deficit, local authorities mix the surface & groundwater.
  4. Moreover, NITI Aayog report mentions nearly 70 percent of the country’s freshwater sources are contaminated. So it is impossible to ensure that quality water alone is supplied to homes.
  5. The “slippage” problem in India: Wide temporal and spatial variation of monsoon result in the slippage problem. For example, India receives 75% of its total rainfall during the four months-long monsoon season alone. So, there is a higher chance that drying up of the water source or collapse of the created facilities will create the problem of drinking water again in the earlier cover areas of schemes such as Jal Jeevan Mission.
  6. Reducing per capita availability of water in India is also a challenge. The Per capita availability was at 1816 cubic meters in 2001. But it reduced to 1545 cubic meters in 2011. Further, It is expected to reduce to 1367 cubic meters in 2031. In such a scenario Providing 19.02 crore, pipe connections will increase the demand for drinking water and reduce the per capita availability of water.

Suggestions to improve access to drinking water

  1. Providing clean drinking water needs a few corrections at the ground level. Such as,
    • Artificial Recharge Techniques such as Rainwater Harvesting Systems in houses and localities should be mandatory. This will increase the Groundwater level in Indian villages.
    • Government has to encourage local participation in water conservation by steps such as an awareness campaign.
  2. The government has to enact a specific plan for water-stressed states and water-stressed areas like the Hiware Bazar model of local-level water regeneration.
    • Hiware Bazar is a village in Maharashtra’s drought-prone Ahmednagar district. Within a decade it changed from the water-stressed region to one of the most prosperous villages of the country. They achieve this by regenerating their natural resources such as forests, watersheds, and soil with local Panchayat.
  3. The government can explore the options of Pricing water used by well-off sections and agriculture. This fund can be used in the maintenance of the pipes and drains.
  4. Mandatory compliance: The sources, as well as the quality of water in the country, need to be maintained on a war front basis. The government can ensure mandatory compliance of local bodies to the Bureau of Indian Standards on water quality. This will ensure quality water at the local level.
  5. The government has to explore technological solutions in drinking water management. Such as establishing water treatment plants in water storage facilities to remove toxic inorganic pollutants and dissolved solids.

India cannot provide clean drinking water to people at the expense of depletion of the existing resources. It will take India, a step closer to the ground-zero level. At the same time, India cannot wait till the present population depletes the water resources. So, It is high time for the government to act on water conservation along with the aim of achieving clean drinking water for all.

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