As Success flows
The ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission is transforming the lives of people by providing potable water to every rural family in the country
Announced by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address to the nation on August 15, 2019, Jal Jeevan Mission is a mission-mode programme under implementation to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household of the country by 2024, well ahead of the timelines fixed under UN SDG-6. The mission is a means to improve the quality of lives and enhance the ‘ease of living’ of about 1 billion people living in the country’s villages. Having successfully delivered assured facilities and expanded access to rural housing, clean cooking gas, household toilets, bank accounts for financial inclusion, basic healthcare, etc, the Government of India has now made providing safe drinking water to every household in the villages one of its top priorities. The country was declared ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF) on October 2, 2019, on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of Nation. Under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), about 110 million toilets were constructed in India’s villages during the last five years through community involvement, thereby freeing about 600 million people from defecating in the open. The success of SBM is remarkable in expansion of public services anywhere in the world.
Utility is the motto
The focus of this ambitious programme is improving water supply service delivery to every home in rural areas, rather than mere infrastructure creation. Thus, there is a focus on a change in the mindset and bringing in a ‘utility-mindset’ in the water supply sector. The mission aims to provide potable water in adequate quantities and of prescribed quality to rural households on both regular and long-term basis. Safe access to potable water in household premises will not only improve the health of rural people by reducing spread of water-borne diseases, it will also provide economic opportunities in rural India, especially for women by freeing up the time otherwise spent in fetching clean drinking water from long distances. Since the objective of the mission is universal coverage, emphasis is being laid on the principles of ‘equity and inclusiveness’ i.e, every family in the village gets functional tap water connection in their household and ‘none is left behind’. At the time of announcement of the mission in August, 2019, out of 190 million rural households, only 32 million households (17 per cent) had tap water connections.
The outlay for the mission for water supply infrastructure creation is USD 51 billion. In every village, water supply, grey water treatment and reuse infrastructure is being built. There is a huge demand for water sector enterprises for planning, designing, implementation, quality check, etc. In many water-stressed areas, bulk water transfer, treatment plants and distribution networks are being created. In areas having geogenic contaminants in groundwater viz. arsenic, fluoride, iron, heavy metals, salinity, etc. cost-effective water treatment technologies are in demand. Modern control and command centres, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and IT systems for efficient management are being put in place. All these provide huge opportunities. To ensure water supply and improved sanitation in India’s villages, in 2020-21, rural local bodies in the country have been allocated about USD 4 billion as grants. This is likely to increase in the coming years. It’s a very progressive step as these two basic services determine the quality of life in rural areas.
The soul of this decentralised, demand-driven and community-managed programme is ‘community participation’ starting with planning of the water supply scheme to regular operation and maintenance for assured service delivery. Every village is being taken up as a unit so that each becomes water secure. Village Action Plan (VAP) is prepared for each village for strengthening of local drinking water sources; in-village water supply infrastructure to provide tap water connections; grey water treatment and reuse; and regular operation and maintenance of water supply system so that every family gets assured supply of potable water on regular and long-term basis. It is expected that village communities will be able to identify issues and challenges, and also address those issues by dovetailing resources made available by the government for various activities. Alongside, planning for drinking water, requirements of livestock population are also being considered. Looking at livestock’s significance in turning the wheels of rural economy, provision of constructing cattle troughs in villages has been made. The VAP is prepared by either the local self-government, or Gram Panchayat, and/or its sub-committee i.e, Village Water & Sanitation Committee with the help from government agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations. (NGOs) working as implementation support agencies.
Drinking water in focus
The mission gives topmost priority to potability of drinking water, which has a huge impact on water-borne diseases and health. For this, the state governments are being encouraged to speed up the accreditation of the water testing laboratories and open them to the general public so as to enable them to test water samples at nominal rates. Currently, there are 2,233 government-owned water testing labs in the country. The mission is also pushing for the development of portable domestic water testing devices, so that water can be tested for a few common quality parameters without going to a laboratory. Besides opening labs to the public, the endeavour is to promote water quality surveillance activities by empowering and engaging the community. For this, the entire value-chain – from timely procurement of field test kits, supply of kits to the community, identification of at least five volunteers, preferably women, in every village viz. school teachers, paramedics, etc. and training them in the operations of the field test kits – is being nurtured so that water supplied to households can be tested locally. The idea is to make it a reliable and trustworthy process to ensure potable water supply.
For sustenance of water supply infrastructure and long-term service delivery in each village/ habitation, skilled manpower in areas like masonry, plumbing, fitting, electricity, etc. is needed for construction as well as regular operation and maintenance. Jal Jeevan Mission aims to create a pool of such skilled human resources in every village to make them self-reliant without external dependence for upkeep and maintenance of water supply systems. This step will also create employment opportunities and promote local entrepreneurship. It is expected that the implementation of this programme, will lead to increased demand for various kinds of materials like cement, bricks, pipes, valves, water/ energy-efficient pumps, solar pumps, faucets, and the like for household tap connections, bulk water transfer and distribution network, treatment plants, grey-water reuse, etc. thereby driving demand for local workmanship as well as manufacturing industries. All this will also lead to furthering the goals of a self-reliant India or ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
Providing piped water supply to all households in India’s villages and rural pockets will boost demand for energy to pump/ lift water. It is envisaged that barren/ uncultivable lands available in the villages, especially in drought prone areas, will be used for tapping solar energy by installing solar panels to provide additional power for this purpose. Such innovative approaches will not only bring down the energy use and lower the maintenance cost but will also promote the use of clean and green energy. In the last 15 months, despite COVID -19 pandemic, 27 million households have been provided with tap water connections and at present, about 59 million (31 per cent) households are getting tap water in their homes. Within a year’s time, every home in 16 districts and 56,000 villages has started getting assured water supply.