To increase piped water coverage from the existing low 18 per cent to 100 per cent coverage by 2024, the Centre has requested all states to adopt an approach similar to the newly-formulated Jal Shakti Ministry that integrates all ministries and bodies dealing with water under one umbrella.
The request follows a consultative meeting Tuesday between ministers and secretaries of water resources, drinking water and sanitation departments of all states (barring West Bengal which did not attend), and Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
“Since water is state subject as per the Constitution, the primary role is that of states but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided that as in the case of our last government, in even constitutional subjects relating to states, we will handhold and help in capacity building,” he said.
“The habitation coverage of piped water is 18 per cent at present. It is to realise our vision of providing drinking water to every house by 2024 that the central government has integrated everything under one head. We call upon the state governments to go for a similar integration.”
According to Shekhawat, the provision of safe drinking water in homes varies greatly between states – from 99 per cent tap water availability in Sikkim to less than five per cent in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.
“For a country that has the largest human and livestock population, the per capita availability of water today is a third of what it was in 1950,” he said. According to officials, 70 years ago, water availability was 5,100 cubic meters per person per year which has now come down to just 1,400 cubic meters per person per year, though the population has trebled.
Explaining the broad contours of the planned implementation, Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary Drinking Water and Sanitation, said that it will allow for utilisation of both ground-water and surface water depending on specific conditions in the states. “It will be an approach where water conservation will go with together with supply. Source sustainability, water recharge, reuse of grey water (for agriculture as well), rainwater harvesting will all be key.”
He said that with regards to the service delivery part, in regions with groundwater, it will be single village schemes that will be managed by the gram panchayats along with the local community. Where water scarcity or water quality is the issue, the states will have to depend on surface water and adopt multi-village schemes.
“There will be third-party verification and then funds will be released from the Government of India,” he said.
Water Resources Secretary U P Singh told The Indian Express that water availability in the country is 4,000 billion cubic meters (bcm) but the usable total of surface and groundwater combined is 1,137 bcm.
“Every year when rains occur, groundwater gets replenished. They need to extract water and make space so that in that space next year water can get accumulated. In states such as Odisha, Assam, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Arunachal Pradesh water table is good but the area under irrigation is low. In such places, we would like to exploit groundwater and they need central funding for tube wells, deep tube well etc,” he said.