by Dr. Debasri Mukherjee
Rural India is moving from infrastructural development to improve water service delivery in every household (55 LPCD) through Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) under Jal Jeevan Mission, which was launched in 2019. All village level public institutions like Schools, Anganwadi Centres (AWCs), Health Facilities and public offices and important public places should also be supplied water through tap connections. This calls for assessing the current status of drinking water supply to HHs, village institutions and important public places in all villages to assess the current gap and the projected gap at the end of 30 years and to plan for required infrastructure and its maintenance. Though the challenges appear significant, states like Telangana, Goa and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Puducherry have been moving in right direction. These four have already achieved 100% FHTC with a strategic plan of valuing the water with ensuring the quality. But slow progress has also been observed in many states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Odisha (0%-10% coverage) due to various geographical, technical, and socio-economic reasons.
There is competing demand for use of water for other than drinking water supply. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) has identified lack of capacities of the community as a challenge and has proposed capacitating the community and management of the in-village water supply scheme by the Gram Panchayat/ Village level committees etc. for ensuring more community ownership. So total availability of water, both surface and ground, within the Gram Panchayat (GP) of any state, and level of use of that water at present and in future are to be also estimated for ensuring sustainability of water availability. There is also need for demand management by knowing the nature of utilization of water for different purposes and various practices on water use and how rational use of water can help avoid wastage, and ensuring security & safety in drinking water supply. The other element to be built in is improving quality of services and strengthening engagement of the consumers of the water supply services and related institutional strengthening of the GP. The GP will remain responsible for extending support to the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of the state government for implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission norms and Operation & Maintenance (O&M) of the Piped Water Supply System (PWSS) for sustainable functioning with support of the PHED. The GP also remains committed to build its own capacity as necessary and put in place all the institutional processes as have been prescribed or will be prescribed in future by the state government to maintain the water supply system on a sustainable basis however for the successful implementation of the water security plan the following strategy should be addressed on a systematic manner:
To meet the norm of the JJM for ensuring FHTC with at least 55 LPCD supply, there will be need for source augmentation. For source sustainability, water recharging in appropriate places should be arranged. It is also necessary to monitor drawing down of the water table to forecast ensuing shortage of supply.
GP wise storage capacity per capita should be worked out to plan for augmentation where necessary and to prioritize the interventions.
It may be considered to develop an O&M Manual for the water supply system and the functionaries concerned may be trained for efficient functioning and keeping essential records. Even those who are hired to repair pumps/ pipelines etc. may be provided effective training.
The GPs need to be informed about their possible availability of funds and how they can improve delivery of water supply services using the recommended funds. They need to be capacitated to bridge the gap to attain at least JJM recommended standard by 2024.
It will be advisable to have meters installed in at least in HHs having overhead or underground water tanks and to charge them more for higher consumption of water.
GPs need to be oriented on issues of water quality monitoring and surveillance as well as on preventing contamination of water through sanitary survey.
There is need for a strong system of monitoring on a real-time basis using electronic technology, analysing the reports and sharing with all concerned for better accountability and timely course corrections.
There is need for sensitizing the community on their role in sustaining and improving their water supply system, protecting the pipelines and preventing any wastage and pilferage of water.
There is need for adoption of appropriate IEC/SBCC strategy for communicating all the water related issues with the community and enhancing their participation. There should be special focus on participation of women because of close association of gender related issues with water and related services.
 Operation Guidelines of Jal Jeevan Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti, GOI, 2019
About Dr. Debasri Mukherjee:
Dr. Debasri Mukherjee has a PhD from Delhi School of Economics ,Department of Geography. She specialized in water quality monitoring and water resource management. She has working experience in national and international organizations and has published many papers. Besides other awards, she received the prestigious “Woman in Water” Award under the technical umbrella of XIV AQUA Congress in 2020.