Drinking Water Facility for Villages in India

Drinking water source at a government school

Drinking water source at a government school (Photo credit: indiawaterportal.org)

By Sarita Brara

New Delhi, March 22, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India): Five crore people living in  over one lakh habitations in villages in our country do not have access to safe drinking water even today. According to official figures twenty two per cent rural families have to walk for   at least half a kilometer or more to fetch water (mostly it is the women who have to bear the burden). The percentage of such families is the maximum in Manipur, Tripura, Odisha, Meghalaya, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Fifteen per cent of households in villages depend on uncovered wells and other unimproved sources like rivers, springs, ponds for drinking water.  Also eighty five per cent of   all drinking water resources in villages are based on underground sources of water and in many of these areas water is contaminated. Only 30.80 percent of the rural population has access to tap water. In fact  there are only four states which have  been able to bring   fifty per cent or more of the rural  areas under piped water supply. Many of the states are yet to fully comply with the Supreme Court order on supply of potable water in government schools. The latest available data shows that less than the 44 per cent government schools in villages have drinking water facility.

During the national consultation in Delhi  held recently on the progress of national rural drinking water programmers and related issues , it was revealed that   in spite  of  this  unsatisfactory scenario  with regard potable water availability in villages  many of the  states  have failed  to fully  utilize  the funds allocated by the centre  under the  various heads of NRDWP.

To achieve the objective of providing drinking water facilities to all the villages, the    Government is bringing about a major paradigm shift in the National Rural   Drinking Water Programme in the XIIth Five Year plan period.  In the backdrop of over extraction of ground water in most parts of the country, the emphasis is to shift away from ground water to surface water. The focus would be on piped water supply and minimizing the use of hand pumps. The target is to ensure individual household connections to at least 35 per cent of the population in villages by 2017 against only 13 per cent today.

In order to encourage the villagers to take water connections, the Government is roping in Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA). A recent order said the ASHAs will get an incentive of 75 rupees for motivating each of the families in villages to take individual household   tap connection. The states can use the money from the support funds allocated to states under the NRDWP.

The norm of 40 litres of water per capita per day( LPCD) in villages  was  set  way back in 1972 but now  under the 12th five  year plan , it  is being increased from 40 to  55 litres .In the 12th   plan the target  is to cover at least half of the  population  to get 55 LPCD  water within in their house hold premises or within  100 meter   radius.   Once the states are able to increase the per capita availability of drinking water, it will help in bridging the gap to some extent between urban areas and rural areas. Under NRDWP, States have the flexibility to fix their own supply norms. The Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister   Bharatsinh Solanki  has  urged the states  to aim at 55 LPCD , this he says will  enable higher level of household connections and  reduce  the burden on women and girls in fetching water from hand pumps and public taps  as well as reducing  risk of contamination.

Quality of drinking water availability is a major concern in villages many parts of the country are affected by contamination of arsenic and fluoride, which are considered the most hazardous in terms of their effect on health. In the budget proposals  for  2013-14 Rs 1,400 crore  will be provided for the setting-up water purification plants as there are still 2,000 arsenic and 12,000 fluoride affected rural habitations in the country. Then there are contaminants like iron, salinity uranium and pesticides. The centre is assisting States affected with Chemical contamination of drinking water, and those States which have cases of Japanese and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome through a  provision under the NRDWP by allocating 5% of the NRDWP funds for Improving the quality of drinking water.

Given the growing importance of water quality issues, under the 12th plan dedicated funding will be provided to States with quality affected habitations, over and above the normal NRDWP allocation to the State. Highest priority will be given to arsenic and fluoride affected habitations. Part of the funding would also be made available to tackle bacteriological contamination in the priority districts with high incidence of Japanese and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome as identified by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Unfortunately many of the states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, and Uttarakhand & Tripura are yet to submit proposals to get the benefit from 5% Water Quality earmarked fund.

World over  lack of drinking water and sanitation facilities account for over nine per cent of the diseases and more than six per cent of deaths. In our country where more than half the population resorts to open defecation, the situation is worse.

It is in this scenario that  major  emphasis in the 12th  plan is  strengthening  convergence   between rural drinking water supply  and  rural sanitation  by taking up villages covered with  piped water supply to get Open Defecation Free  status priority and vice versa.

The 12th  plan draft document says that all  government schools and anganwadis  in  government  or community buildings will be  provided with  water supply for drinking  and for toilets as per  relevant quality norms   by convergence of NRDWP for existing schools and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and  for new schools set up under SSA. For private schools this will be enforced the right to education provisions.  All community toilets built with public funds and maintained for public use will be provided with running water supply under NRDWP.  Care will be taken to ensure that minimum distance is maintained between the toilet systems and water sources, to alleviate the problem of nitrate contamination.

A part of NRDWP outlay will be set aside for integrated Habitat Improvement Projects to provide housing, water and sanitation facilities in rural areas at par with urban areas.

Participation of the beneficiaries especially women in drink water supply schemes is also proposed.

In another initiative Solar powered pumps will be provided for implementation in remote, small habitations and those with irregular power supply  by converging subsidy available under Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

Waste water treatment and recycling will also be an integral part of every water supply plan or project.

India is fast becoming a water stressed country and over and above everything else there is need to generate awareness about protecting drinking water sources from contamination, regular testing of drinking water sources, conserving rainwater in tanks and ponds, water recharge and water saving devices so that everyone in the country is able to get the basic facility of drinking water.

World Water Day is observed on 22 March.

(PIB Features)

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or WBRi.