Water

To meet 2017 target, one million rural households need to be connected with piped water supply every day

Community involvement is missing and so is the interest towards maintaining sustainability of drinking water projects. What else hinders progress of rural drinking water scheme?

 
By Sushmita Sengupta, Richard Mahapatra
Last Updated: Monday 30 October 2017
Women dedicate long hours in collecting water from nearby hand pumps for various purposes. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
Women dedicate long hours in collecting water from nearby hand pumps for various purposes. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE Women dedicate long hours in collecting water from nearby hand pumps for various purposes. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

By 2017, 50 per cent of all rural households (89.6 million out of 179 million) should have got piped water supply and 35 per cent of rural households should have been connected to household taps. We are just two months away for 2017 to end, and till date, only 30 million households (16.77 per cent) have piped water supply connections. It leaves the government with a target of connecting remaining 59.5 million households with piped water supply. This means, 990,000 households should be connected with piped water supply in a day. That target looks absurd.

Even the 2022 target of providing 90 per cent of rural households with piped water supply looks far from achievable. To meet that goal, the government needs to connect around 79,000 households to piped water supply every day.

What explains this dismal performance?

There seems to be lack of interest in rural water supply by both state and the Centre. Duplication of data and false progress is evident in the reporting of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS). The ministry data shows that there were more than 60,000 rural water projects in 2016-17 and also shows that expenditure has been incurred. However, there has been no physical progress.

Karnataka, one of the worst drought-hit states in 2014-15 and 2015-16, shows a maximum number of such projects—around 16,417. Apart from this, the MDWS data shows that there has been duplication of data for 439 habitations. This poses a question on the actual achievement of the target both on coverage of rural water supply and areas affected by poor water quality. The question now arises: why is this lack of interest?

A series of programmes for providing drinking water to rural areas has been launched since 1969.

The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) was launched in 2009, replacing Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) of 1972-73, where the key principles of potability, reliability, sustainability, convenience, equity and priority to consumers’ preference were adopted. Under NRDWP, a criterion for allocation of funds to the states was introduced, which had given utmost priority to rural population and incentivised the community management of water schemes by allocating 10 per cent weightage to such initiatives (See table: More for local).

More for local
Criteria for allocation of funds to the states by the India government incentivise devolution of power to Panchayats

S.No.

Criteria

Weightage

1

Rural population

40

2

Rural SC and ST population

10

3

States under DDP, DPAP, HADP and special category hill states in terms of rural areas

40

4

Rural population managing rural drinking water supply schemes

10

 

Total

100

Source: MDWS


NRDWP, launched in 2009 and revised in 2016, ensured ‘water safety plan’ that mandates both identification of water quality problem and also safety solution through Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) constituted by the villagers. NRDWP has made provisions for monitoring quality at both treatment plant and consumption level. Focus is more on treating water at household level to bring down burden of water-borne diseases substantially.

Rakesh Kumar, 40, head of Chak Malik Bhiti gram panchayat of Dalmau block, Raebareli is discontent with the fact that the Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plant was set up in the village without involving the village community. The plant was set up by the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam (UPJN), which has a capacity to treat 5,000 litres per day, three years ago. This is not enough to cater to this village of 80 households, explains Rakesh.

Groundwater is the only source of water and it is contaminated with Flouride. The water is extracted through hand pump by UPJN. Kumar explains that these hand pumps are India Mark II hand pumps and installed by the Jal Nigam. Flourosis is a common disease here due to high fluoride content of the groundwater. The village needs supply of clean drinking water immediately, demand the villagers.

“Nobody is in charge of operation and maintenance of the RO system. The system is of no use to us. The department should have communicated with us before setting up the plant. They came and installed it without the understanding of the use and source of the water,” they say.

There is no one to monitor the usage of the RO system, so the villagers use the filtered water for drinking, washing and bathing. Virender Sankar Mishra, a retired teacher of a secondary school in Jagdishpur village, Deeh block, Raebareli, explains that he has heard about ‘water safety plan’ that mandates both identification of water quality problem and also safety solution through Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) constituted by the villagers but no such exercise happened in this village. “No initiative has been taken by the village head or the Jal Kal Vibhag for providing us with piped water supply. Last mile coverage for water is lacking in this village. A main pipeline up to pucca (metalled) road was laid way back in 2015, but no progress has been made till date to provide water supply to our houses,” adds Mishra.

Women dedicate long hours in collecting water from nearby hand pumps for various purposes. Surprisingly, the data from Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) show that the entire district of Raebareli has been covered by the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) scheme—unique example of implementation of a programme without taking care of the principle points of the guidelines.

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