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Jal Jeevan Mission: A Mission to provide clean drinking water to the nation

The people are a very important component of a country.

Jal Jeevan Mission

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 March 2022 3:55 AM GMT

Hrishikesh Sarma (hriskikeshsarma@gmail.com) & Nishit Talukdar (nishittalukdar6@gmail.com)

The people are a very important component of a country. India is the second-most populous country after China in the world with its total population of 1028 million in 2001. India's population is larger than the total population of North America, South America and Australia put together. More often, it is argued that such a large population invariably puts pressure on its limited resources and is also responsible for many socio-economic problems in the country. The density of population is expressed as the number of persons per unit area. It helps in getting a better understanding of the spatial distribution of population about land. The density of population in India (2011) is 382 persons per sq km. There has been a steady increase of more than 200 persons per sq km over the last 50 years as the density of population increased from 117 persons/ sq km in 1951 to 382 persons/sq km in 2011. The density of population increased in all States and Union Territories between 1991 and 2011.

India accounts for about 2.45 per cent of the world's surface area, 4 per cent of the world's water resources and about 16 per cent of the world's population. The total water available from precipitation in the country in a year is about 4,000 cubic km. The availability of surface water and replenishable groundwater is 1,869 cubic km. Out of this only 60 per cent can be put to beneficial uses. Thus, the total utilisable water resource in the country is only 1,122 cubic km. The per capita availability of water is dwindling day by day due to the increase in population. The available water resources are also getting polluted with industrial, agricultural and domestic effluents, and this, in turn, is further limiting the availability of usable water resources. Water quality refers to the purity of water or water without unwanted foreign substances. Water gets polluted by foreign matters such as microorganisms, chemicals, industrial and other wastes. Such matters deteriorate the quality of water and render it unfit for human use. When toxic substances enter lakes, streams, rivers, oceans and other water bodies, they get dissolved or lie suspended in water. This results in pollution of water whereby quality of water deteriorates affecting aquatic systems. Sometimes, these pollutants also seep down and pollute groundwater. The Ganga and the Yamuna are the two highly polluted rivers in the country.

India's water crisis is a constant. Although India has 16 per cent of the world's population, the country possesses only four per cent of the world's freshwater resources. India is water-stressed due to changing weather patterns and repeated droughts. And the worst sufferers of this crisis are mostly women. As many as 256 of 700 districts in India have reported 'critical' or 'over-exploited' groundwater levels according to the most recent Central Ground Water Board data (from 2017). This means that getting water in these places has grown more difficult as the water table has dropped. Three-fourths of India's rural families lack access to piped, drinkable water and must rely on unsafe sources. India has become the world's largest extractor of groundwater, accounting for 25 per cent of the total. Some 70 per cent of our water sources are contaminated and our major rivers are dying because of pollution.

A safe water supply is the backbone of a healthy economy, yet is woefully prioritized, globally.

It is estimated that waterborne diseases have an economic burden of approximately USD 600 million a year in India. This is especially true for drought- and flood-prone areas, which affected a third of the nation in the past couple of years. Less than 50 per cent of the population in India has access to safely managed drinking water. Chemical contamination of water, mainly through fluoride and arsenic, is present in 1.96 million dwellings.

Excess fluoride in India may be affecting tens of millions of people across 19 states, while equally worryingly, excess arsenic may affect up to 15 million people in West Bengal, according to the World Health Organization.

Moreover, two-thirds of India's 718 districts are affected by extreme water depletion, and the current lack of planning for water safety and security is a major concern. One of the challenges is the fast rate of groundwater depletion in India, which is known as the world's highest user of this source due to the proliferation of drilling over the past few decades. Groundwater from over 30 million access points supplies 85 per cent of drinking water in rural areas and 48 per cent of water requirements in urban areas.

When families do not have a safe and reliable water source, preferably direct to their home, then it is often women and children that are responsible for collecting water. School attendance in India decreases when children are required to spend hours collecting water. A 22 per cent increase in school dropout rates has been reported in drought-affected states. Close to 54 per cent of rural women – as well as some adolescent girls - spend an estimated 35 minutes getting water every day, equivalent to the loss of 27 days' wages over a year.

In 2015, India achieved 93 per cent coverage of access to improved water supply in rural areas. However, with the shift from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the new baseline estimates that less than 49 per cent of the rural population is using safely managed drinking water (improved water supply located on-premises, available when needed and free of contamination).

In 2019, after Prime Minister Modi's re-election, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) was restructured under a new ministerial organogram, under which the MDWS's mandate became one of two pillars under a new ministry named Jal Shakti (meaning "power of water").

While sanitation remains a priority the focus is on the provision of a 24/7 piped water supply is on the rise. UNICEF has been the 'development partner of choice' for the Government of India and has played a key role in the revamping and implementation of the Government of India's flagship National Rural Drinking Water Programme.

Thanks to UNICEF's continued advocacy, technical assistance and engagement with the Ministry of Jal Shakti, safe drinking water and sanitation remain high on the agenda of India's new government. UNICEF is currently working closely with the Ministry of Jal Shakti on the Jal Shakti Abhiyan and Jal Jeevan Abhiyaan.

UNICEF focuses on community-managed drinking water, including water safety and security planning, in support of the NRDWP. At the institutional level, UNICEF focuses on developing improved water quality monitoring systems and strengthening the operation and maintenance of water supply infrastructures.

One current initiative is Swajal, which seeks to enable communities to self-manage safe water sources within their habitations, and is supported by UNICEF through policy development, training of trainers, and communication campaigns.

The Ministry of Jal Shakti launched "Swajal" as a pilot project that is designed as a demand-driven programme involving the community to provide sustainable access to safe drinking water to people in rural areas.

The Swajal programme is empowering communities to plan, design, implement and monitor single village drinking water supply schemes, and organize community ownership for operation and maintenance.

The target population for Swajal in 117 aspirational districts across 28 states is about 0.5 million a year.

This programme has helped in prioritizing integrated water safety planning, behaviour change and community participation in most deprived aspirational districts, and Water Quality Monitoring (WQM). This contributed to achieving 18.6 million people gaining access to safe drinking water.

UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Jal Shakti in strengthening the Swajal and the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) at national and in 14 states. UNICEF will be contributing to reaching about two million populations over four years.

UNICEF's technical assistance has focused on facilitating the development of national-level guidelines for implementation of Swajal focusing on community participation, technology options, operation and maintenance.

The guidelines give specific emphasis on women's participation in the various stages of planning, implementation and management of schemes. For example, the local person responsible for regular operation and minor repairs is preferably a woman from the village who will be trained and engaged through deliverable-based payments.

The learning's from Swajal will be upscaled to NRDWP strengthening the community management aspects along with technological options. UNICEF will strengthen the ongoing support to the Ministry of Jal Shakti for community management of water supplies.

The NRDWP, with its revised programmatic approach, has focused on developing capacity building, which included the development of training content and support in delivering the training. UNICEF is bridging the gaps in the areas of human resources and institutional capacity, technical skills development and community management and behaviour change, ensuring participation of women.

The Central Government assistance to States for rural water supply began in 1972 with the launch of the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme. It was renamed as National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) in 2009, which is a centrally-sponsored scheme with fund sharing between the Centre and the States. Under NRDWP, one of the objectives was to "enable all households to have access to and use safe & adequate drinking water within premises to the extent possible". It was proposed to achieve the goal by 2030, coinciding with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. But now, it is has been planned to achieve the goal by 2024 through Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). As per the information available with DDWS, as of 31.3.2019, only 18.33% of rural households i.e. 3.27 crore out of the total 17.87 crore rural households in the country, have piped water connections. Jal Jeevan Mission is envisioned to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India. The programme will also implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, rainwater harvesting. The Jal Jeevan Mission will be based on a community approach to water and will include extensive Information, education and communication as a key component of the mission. The Jal Jeevan Mission will be based on a community approach to water and will include extensive Information, Education and communication as a key component of the mission. JJM looks to create a Jan Andolan for water, thereby making it everyone's priority.

The broad objectives of the Mission are:

1. to provide FHTC to every rural household;

2. to prioritize the provision of FHTCs in quality affected areas, villages in drought-prone and desert areas, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) villages, etc.;

3. to provide functional tap connection to Schools, Anganwadi centres, GP buildings, Health centres, wellness community buildings; centres

4. to monitor the functionality of tap connections;

5. to assist in ensuring the sustainability of water supply system, i.e. water source, water supply infrastructure, and funds for regular O&M;

6. to empower and develop human resources in the sector such that the demands of construction, plumbing, electrical, water quality management, water treatment, catchment protection, O&M, etc. are taken care of in the short and long term;

7. to bring awareness on various aspects and significance of safe drinking water and involvement of stakeholders in a manner that makes water everyone's business.

On August 15, 2019, Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, announced the most ambitious water program in Indian history, the Jal Jeevan mission. India is expected to spend Rs 3.50 lakh crore (US$ 46.5 billion) for the program. The aim is to provide functional tap water across every state and union territory by 2024. The goal is a service level rate of 55 litres per capita per day. The Indian government wants to take tap water accessibility to 100% across the country. India's Jal Jeevan mission aims to strengthen the existing water sources to set up various treatment plants and desalination plants in the coastal regions. The mission also aims that the existing water supply and connections are functional, water quality is maintained, and sustainable agriculture is achieved. It ensures the conjunctive use of conserved water, drinking water source augmentation, drinking water supply system, grey-water treatment, and reuse. The Jal Jeevan mission ensures that individuals in need of water have access to it. This in particular benefits women and young girls who travel long distances to fetch water. The government aims to utilize the newfound time for income generation, tourism improvement, skills improvement, and supporting child education.

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