Enabling ‘Har Ghar Jal’ through Jal Jeevan Mission | The Financial Express

Enabling ‘Har Ghar Jal’ through Jal Jeevan Mission

Despite the investment in the rural water sector from the various government programmes and investment from multilateral agencies which aimed to cover 100% coverage of rural habitations, only 16.72% of rural households had access to tap water connections up till 2019.

Enabling ‘Har Ghar Jal’ through Jal Jeevan Mission
To achieve universal access of water, the Government of India (GoI) has launched various initiatives since its independence.

By Abhaya Agarwal

Universal access to adequate and safe water is a basic human need and thereby a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) which has both immediate and long-term effects on human health and well-being. Supply of piped water in the premises reduces the dependency of the community on local water sources (wells, hand pumps, rivers), which are in many cases contaminated. India is home to 16% of the world’s population (70% of the population resides in 1.7 million rural households) and has only about 4% of the world’s total freshwater resource. This gets aggravated by the fact that 70% of the freshwater sources in India are polluted. With an estimated 37.7 million Indians impacted annually by water-borne diseases, providing potable water will assure public health, will reduce rural health costs and will emerge as a key to the prosperity of the communities.

To achieve universal access, the Government of India (GoI) has launched various initiatives since its independence. Despite the investment in the rural water sector from the various government programmes and investment from multilateral agencies which aimed to cover 100% coverage of rural habitations, only 16.72% of rural households had access to tap water connections up till 2019. Learning from the strengths and weaknesses of the previous initiatives, GoI in August 2019 launched the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) intending to provide regular, safe and adequate drinking water to every household by 2024.

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In a short span of three years, the programme has achieved a total of 54.20%1 tap connections in rural households, with seven states/ UTs having achieved 100% tap water connections enabling ‘Har Ghar Jal’. Under the programme, 84.55% of schools and 80.60% of Anganwadi centres have been provided with tap water supply. Further, 1,013 Japanese Encephalitis/ Acute Encephalitis Syndrome infected villages and 2,973 villages under aspirational districts have been ‘Har Ghar Jal’ certified.

The positive impact of Jal Jeevan Mission

The programme has directly impacted the lives of rural women by sparing them from having to travel great distances in search of water, frequently at the expense of their safety. This can be ascertained by a survey where 72% of the rural community stated that the time and effort required to collect water has decreased since the installation of the household tap connection.

The availability of freshwater supply also indirectly enhances rural economies through market-based domestic production. A survey reported, after the installation of a functional household tap connection, 29% of households across states/ UTs have observed an increase in the number of employment days of the adult members of the house. Further, 21% of the sampled households from aspirational districts agreed that there has been a direct benefit to their household income after installing a tap connection.

The programme has raised awareness among the rural population on various aspects of water such as rainwater harvesting, artificial recharge, water saving, water handling, drinking water security, water quality and water-borne diseases. According to a National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) study, the number of cases of water-borne illnesses has dropped from 177 million in 2019 to 59 million in 2021. In another survey, it was reported that more than 60% of the households in aspirational districts felt tap connection earned them more respect, and a feeling of pride and brought a positive change in their social status.

Evolving approach

Schemes in the past focussed on infrastructure creation and thus sustaining them posed a huge challenge. Learning from the past, the JJM programme has given impetus to service delivery through a bottom-up utility-based approach to ensure the long-term sustainability of water supply schemes. This has also helped in fostering a sense of accountability and involvement in the village community by skilling them in village-level operations & maintenance, and water quality testing using Field Test Kits (FTKs) to assure regular and good quality water supply.

The programme also makes an effort to integrate various schemes for water conservation, groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting and greywater management aiming to achieve water security, to converge funds and efforts holistically. However, the successful implementation of the programme is majorly being translated into the effective implementation of functional household tap connections (FHTC), which, going forward, needs to be extended to source-sustainability measures with enhanced monitoring efforts being channelised to this area.

Water as a resource is scarce, so it is crucial to use this resource pragmatically. Collection of water user charges has been made a priority in the programme and going forward application of water meters could ensure volume-based charges that will discourage water wastage, especially in areas of scarcity. There is a focus on involving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) as Implementation Support Agencies (ISAs) to mobilise and engage the communities from the planning stage till the implementation so that the village-level committees are equipped to take up the operation, and maintenance of in-village water supply infrastructure. Consistent efforts to build capacity and spread awareness at the local level, especially in areas with marginalised communities and in geographically challenging areas are required in the long run.

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Benefits of the programme are already being visualised midway through the programme, in terms of enhanced well-being, a decline in water-borne diseases, higher household earnings, etc. However, the program’s effectiveness and success largely depend on a multistakeholder approach, wherein everyone has to come together to play their part and thereby the effectiveness could only be assessed a decade down the line when the intended programme objectives are not only achieved but sustained.

(Abhaya Agarwal, Leader – Infrastructure, Government and Public sector, EY India. Maanshi Shah and Anshul Tyagi, EY India also contributed to the article. Views expressed are personal.)

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First published on: 10-12-2022 at 09:21:39 am
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