Jal Jeevan Mission

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his independence day speech announced that more than Rs 3.5 lakh crore will be spent in the coming years under the Jal Jeevan Mission to bring piped water to households.

Access to Clean and Safe Water

Over the years, the central and state governments have been making efforts to increase access to safe and adequate drinking water. The provision of a basic quantity of drinking water in rural India has been achieved through handpumps, dug wells or public stand posts. At the top of the aspirational ladder has always been household water supply (HWS). While states like Sikkim and Gujarat have managed to achieve high levels of HWS, a relatively low percentage of rural Indian households have access to this service.

What India lagged behind in Providing Household Water Supply?

  • The strategy to increase access to HWS faced obstacles including not paying enough attention to sustaining or recharging groundwater, the primary source, and treating service delivery primarily as an engineering solution, without adequate involvement of the users.
  • A further challenge at the policy level was that the institutional landscape for water at both the Centre and the state governments levels were somewhat fragmented, with several ministries in Delhi and departments in states dealing with different aspects of water management, with overlapping roles and responsibilities. No single body had the ultimate oversight and authority necessary to resolve conflicting issues and take the necessary decisions.
  • There was inadequate attention towards taking concrete measures to sustain the source of the water, in most cases groundwater. The traditional approach to source sustainability was either been to assume that the groundwater source is infinite or that it is some other department’s problem.
  • Instead of taking simple and local measures, like creating rainwater harvesting structures and point recharge structures in the vicinity of borewells, the emphasis was more on maximising the pumping of water and distributing it through pipes.
  • As a result, many of the systems were either shutting down or functioning suboptimally due to the groundwater source having dried up.
  • Traditionally the governments viewed the provision of drinking water was viewed primarily as an engineering solution, with schemes being planned and executed by the public health and engineering departments.  Thus there was a clear departure from the idea of subsidiarity (wherein a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level).

Tackling the Challenges: Jal Jeevan Mission

  • The creation of the Jal Shakti Mantralaya in the Government of India to integrate the management of India’s water resources and supply of drinking water is a landmark step in diagnosing and addressing the problem. Therefore the stage has been set at the policy level to deliver integrated water management solutions.
  • To ensure the source sustainability the proposed Jal Jeevan Mission makes the source sustainability measures mandatory prior to pumping and distributing water to households.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission takes cues from the Swajal project in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and the WASMO programme in Gujarat which demonstrated that with adequate capacity building and training, water can be most efficiently managed at the lowest appropriate level,
  • The first preference under the Jal Jeevan Mission is to have single village ground water-based schemes, wherever sufficient quantity and good quality of groundwater exists. These schemes would be managed by the community itself through the setting up of a village water and sanitation committee, a sub-committee of the gram panchayat.
  • Wherever an adequate quantity of safe groundwater is not present, or where it may be technically not feasible to have single-village schemes, surface water-based multi-village schemes will be promoted.
  • Further, in remote regions, where it may not be techno-economically feasible to have household water supply schemes, local innovations, such as solar-based schemes will be encouraged.
  • The proposed Jal Jeevan Mission plans to include a mandatory provision for the effective channelling and treatment of household wastewater (known as greywater). Once appropriately treated through appropriate and low-cost drainage and treatment systems, the greywater can be used for both recharge of groundwater as well as for irrigation purposes.

The Jal Jeevan Mission provides for an integrated approach to decentralised, community managed, and sustainable water management to ensure that every household gets the benefits of water supply. The Jal Jeevan Mission will be a major step towards improving our people’s ease of living and meeting their aspirations of a New India.

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