As many as 18,784 of a total 27,544 arsenic and fluoride-affected rural habitations have been covered for safe drinking water while water quality in 8,032 of these covered areas have improved, the Jal Shakti Ministry stated.
About 10 per cent of the population resides in habitations affected by chemical contaminants, including heavy metals, according to a document shared by the ministry.
To provide safe drinking water to the identified 27,544 habitations by March 2021, the National Water Quality Sub-Mission (NWQSM) was introduced in March 2017. It has now been subsumed under the Jal Jeevan Mission, the Jal Shakti Ministry pointed out.
Consumption of arsenic can cause skin diseases and cancer while fluoride causes fluorosis and deformities in bones.
In villages with adequate groundwater but of low quality, either the water is being treated to remove contaminants or surface water-based water supply schemes from a dependable source are planned. Technological interventions are being adopted for removal of contaminants where water quality is an issue, the document stated.
According to the document, since commissioning of piped water supply schemes may consume time, states have been advised to install community water purification plants (CWPP), especially in arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations, as an interim measure to provide eight to 10 litres water per capita per day for drinking and cooking purposes.
However, the states are asked to plan for piped water supply to every home in these habitations on priority, the ministry said.
On grey water disposal, the ministry said directions have been issued to provide clean tap water to more than 16 crore rural households and about 40 lakh public institutions by 2024. In addition, gram panchayats, village water and sanitation committees and ‘paani samitis’ are being empowered to shoulder the responsibility of managing water supply and grey water.
To tackle various challenges, innovative solutions and new technologies are required, the ministry added.
“Keeping this in view, a technical committee under the chairmanship of principal scientific advisor to the Government of India comprising representatives from states, scientists and innovators etc. has been constituted,” the ministry stated.
This committee will identify challenges and with the assistance of states, will invite online proposals for solving them, decide and recommend further action, including demonstration projects, and develop performance and technology standards, it said.
Grey water is the used water released from kitchens and bathrooms among others. It is relatively less polluting vis-à-vis septage removed from the septic tanks. Because of the volume of grey water generated in towns is huge and that it often flows through storm water drains, the overall pollution load on the receiving water body can be high.
Improper conveyance and disposal of grey water results in breeding mosquitoes and vectors in drains and pollution of receiving water bodies.
Prof. V Srinivas Chary, Director of Centre for Urban Governance, Environment, Energy and Infrastructure Development at the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) and a member of National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance said grey water needs proper conveyance and safe treatment and disposal for the reasons cited above.
“In India, the conveyance of grey water is through storm water drains. If these drains are not well maintained due to improper disposal of solid waste, they can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and vectors. The first step is to ensure that the drains are closed, with adequate provision for inspection and maintenance. In addition, the bulk generators of grey water such as hotels, institutions, hospitals and gated communities should be encouraged to install decentralised waste water treatment systems,” he told PTI.
Moreover, grey water flowing in the drains can be intercepted and diverted to a waste water treatment facility. Post the tertiary treatment, it can be reused and recycled for non-potable applications. Behavioural change communication campaigns are important to engage citizens in safe management of grey water, he said.