Budget 2020: Water in spotlight as Modi govt takes up issues in mission mode; includes in pre-budget talks

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Updated: December 23, 2019 5:21:50 PM

Budget 2020 India: Even the previous governments flagged issues related to water but the present government has kickstarted it in a mission mode.

jal shakti, nirmala sitharaman, nal se jal, prime minister, water crisis, drinking water, sanitation, Budget 2020, Union Budget 2020 India, Budget 2020 India, Budget 2020-21Budget 2020-21: The problem-solving approach of the government suddenly caught up momentum after May this year when the government formed a new ministry – ‘Ministry of Jal Shakti’.

Union Budget 2020 India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on water and sanitation issues has seen the subject moving up to the importance level of the Union Budget, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman holding pre-budget 2020 consultations with stakeholders in water and sanitation industry. “It is good that the government has taken it on priority as one of the basic issues is the availability of water. I would reckon that the government has laid higher focus and investments on solving water-related issues and the budget allocation in this area may go up in the coming budget,” Sameer Narang, Chief Economist, Bank of Baroda, told Financial Express Online.

A ‘Mission’ Possible

Narendra Modi had said in 2019 election manifesto that the issues related to water provision were close to his heart, and that he would take it up in a ‘mission mode’ after the formation of the government. Soon after coming to power for a second term in a landslide election victory, his NDA government formed a ‘Ministry of Jal Shakti’ — the first of its kind. The Ministry of Jal Shakti pools all the water management resources and seeks to administer and improve the quality of water provision in the country, including Narendra Modi’s ambition ‘Nal Se Jal’ scheme — a programme to provide tap water connectivity to every household.

“Even the previous governments flagged issues related to water but the present government has kickstarted it in a mission mode. Water is a state subject but the centre has taken it on priority. Though water-related issues are present globally, it feels good to see the government taking it on a serious note,” Shishir Chandra, Programme Coordinator, Water Aid, told Financial Express Online. The government agenda includes creating awareness to make water reach to every household while protecting the resources at the same time, Shishir Chandra added.

Also Read: Narendra Modi’s flagship water scheme has this in store for private sector businesses

What Will it Take?

In the last budget 2019, the government doubled the allocation to National Rural Drinking Water Mission to Rs 10,001 crore from Rs 5,500 crore in the revised Budget of 2018-19. The country’s agriculture sector soaks over 80 per cent of the water availability of India, where over-extracting and wrong behaviour patterns are key issues. Hence, enhancing sensitivity and sensibility may reduce the quantity of water usage.

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Providing technical solutions to increase efficiency is also on the government’s to-do list for which task force was made during July-November. The government has categorised districts and villages such as dark zones and critical zones, on the basis of severity of water-related issues and those were sent to the respective state governments for further action. Also, to provide technical support at the ground level,  training related to design and structure is provided to construct hardware structure.

Also Read: Explained: India’s water crisis and what states need to do to solve it

What Will it Do?

The returns on such investments are also very high as those are social returns. While the input cost and production cost will remain constant, higher availability of water will lead to a higher yield, giving higher returns, Sameer Narang added.

Rural access to basic sanitation services is only 14 per cent, which is ironic. A UN report says that the benefits of having access to an improved drinking water source can only be fully realised when there is also access to improved sanitation and adherence to good hygiene practices. Meanwhile, around 27 per cent population in India practices open defecation and the World Bank estimates that 21 per cent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices.

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