Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new flagship scheme in his second term, seeking to provide piped water to all, may offer a major role for the private sector players engaged in water treatment, going by a minister’s comments.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new flagship scheme in his second term, seeking to provide piped water to all, may offer a major role for the private sector players engaged in water treatment, going by a minister’s comments. The government has made its stand clear that safe and adequate drinking water is a top priority for it in BJP’s second term, which began recently. Packaged water bottling companies are already finding big business opportunity amid the ongoing water scarcity in some pockets of India. Out of more than 3,400 bottling plants in India, 55% are in the four southern states, where water scarcity is a major problem. Disposable income and awareness towards clean drinking water are rising hand in hand, giving the bottled water industry a growth of 15% every year, industry data showed.
In an interaction with The Indian Express, Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said that in the urban areas, water has to be treated by the government or by a private party, or in PPP (public private partnership) mode, where there can be various modalities such as BOT. But another issue here is of the capacity utilisation, he said. There have been instances where the government has built treatment plants with big investments, but the states are not fully utilising those, Shekhawat said. Thus, the government has undertaken the business model where one who builds the plant, will be responsible for running it as well, with the cost recovery spread over the full operation and maintenance term. In big cities, there is hardly any other option, Shekhawat said, adding that in villages, there can be a community-based approach.
Further, the usage of recycled water has to be increased, Shekhawat said, adding that India’s water crisis will vanish if the country moves into the habit of recycling water. The Jal Shakti Ministry is in talks with IIT Madras to develop double-outlet piping facility for the households, which could bifurcate ‘grey water’ from ‘black water’. The cost of recycling and purifying ‘grey water’, that from kitchen sinks and washing clothes, is just 10% of recycling and purifying ‘black water’, which comes from toilets. Currently, since it all is mixed, the recycling cost is very high, he said.
Allocation to National Rural Drinking Water Mission has hence been almost doubled to Rs 10,001 crore in the Budget 2019-20 from Rs 5,500 crore in the revised Budget of 2018-19. As a flagship programme, ‘Nal se Jal’ scheme has been launched to offer piped water supply to all the rural houses by 2024. However, the situation is grim as of now. A Niti Aayog report dated June 2018 says that 84% of the rural households do not have piped water access; 75% of households do not have drinking water on premises; 60 crore people face high-to-extreme water stress; 70% of our water is contaminated. India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.