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Water quality challenge to JJM

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-6 focuses on clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  26 Jan 2023 4:00 AM GMT

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-6 focuses on clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. Several rural households of India having access to tap water connection under the flagship programme increasing to over 11 crores on the 74th Republic Day has put the spotlight on Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) for the remarkable progress made since 2019. The pace of implementation of JJM indicates that the target of providing every rural household with clean drinking water by 2024 is achievable but the real challenge is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the projects and ensure that supplied water meets standards prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Official data shows that only 16.72% of rural households had access to tap water when JJM was launched in 2019. This percentage increases to 56.84 over the past three years speaks volumes about the States/Union Territories building their capacities to add momentum to the pace of implementation. The JJM Guidelines require the States/UTs to conduct a test of drinking water sources once a year for chemical and physical parameters, and twice a year for bacteriological parameters. States/ UTs are allowed to utilize up to 2% of their annual allocation under JJM for taking up water quality monitoring and surveillance activities such as setting up and strengthening drinking water quality testing laboratories at state, district, sub-division and block levels. The country has over 2000 drinking water testing laboratories. Assam has 83 water testing laboratories-one at the state level, 26 at the district level and 56 at Block or sub-division level. Increasing the number of laboratories is necessary for effective coverage of 26395 villages in the state so that norms stipulated in the guidelines for testing water quality can be carried out without any backlog. Water Quality Management Information System portal highlights that of 2,64,628 water samples tested in the state 19,491 were found to be contaminated and across the country, 9.24 lakh samples were found contaminated. These figures highlight the importance of giving top priority to testing water quality so that remedial measures are taken to ensure that water supplied through a tap in villages is safe for human consumption. Any individual can test water sample in the nearest laboratory while the JJM Guidelines envisages that five persons, preferably women, have to be identified and trained in every village to undertake water quality testing using Field Test Kits (FTK) and upload sample data on the portal. Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals such as arsenic, fluoride, iron, and uranium; fertilizers, pesticides, livestock used in local land use for farming practices, heavy metals from manufacturing processes near drinking water sources; and microbial contamination from wastewater systems are potential sources of contamination of drinking water sources ad consumption of such contaminated water without proper treatment will pose a serious health hazard. Checking the pipe network for any damage or leakage is also crucial for preventing contamination of treated water. Generating awareness among every village household to develop a sense of ownership, about the importance of water quality testing and remaining vigilant against contamination of water sources is vital for achieving the objective of JJM. The National Report Functionality assessment of household tap connection–2022 presents the ground realities of water quality which call for States earmarking more allocation of their annual budgets for setting up more accredited water testing laboratories. The report states that district-level laboratories currently can test 30-40 samples within 24 hours given the shortage of trained technicians and unavailability of necessary reagents and on average, for most of the water samples submitted the turnaround time for testing quality parameters was more than 48 hours. Under the Mission, more than 17 lakh women have been trained for testing water samples using FTK which is laudable but lack of an adequate number of testing laboratories, their expertise would not be used optimally. Government statistics show that groundwater accounts for over 85% of the drinking water supply in rural India and the campaign for the judicious use of tap water need to be intensified to prevent contamination of groundwater sources due to overdrawing. It highlights that overall 93 per cent of the water samples were found to be free of bacteriological contamination. However, in about one-fourth (24 per cent) of the households, permissible traces of residual chlorine were found, which, the report cautioned "could be concerning in the advent of any sudden incident of bacteriological contamination". In most of the Anganwadi centres and schools, the traces of residual chlorine were found to be higher than the permissible range indicating inappropriate localized dosing of chlorine for purification, which could be hazardous, add the report based on an assessment that covered 712 rural districts. This is a cause for grave concern and requires immediate remedial measures. The augmenting capacity of testing the quality of water supplied under JJM is the need of the hour.

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