Guwahati: Against the set target of providing 12.45 lakh households with tap water connection in Assam in the year 2019-20, the state could only cover 48,852 households. This is only 3% of the original goal. Of the allocated fund of Rs 694.34 crore for 2019-20, the state spent only Rs 392.36 crore, said a report by the Jal Shakti ministry.
On World Environment Day, Union minister for Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat wrote a letter to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressing concern over the slow progress of National Jal Jeevan Mission (NJJM) in the state. There is a need to review the planning and implementation strategy for water supply schemes in Assam so as to expedite physical progress and improve fund utilization.
The stakes of the mission is quite high in a state like Assam where several belts have water adulterated with arsenic and fluoride. According to a UN report, earlier this year NJJM received a grievance from a resident of Guwahati and it was reported that one primary school of Kamrup district had no access to piped water supply and children were consuming groundwater with high fluoride content. As per Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the permissible limit of fluoride in water is 1.5 PPM.
It was also found that 14 children’s urine samples showed excessive content of Fluoride confirming dental fluorosis in them and possibly skeletal fluorosis too.
Further, with the outbreak of pandemic like coronavirus which has disrupted our daily lives and forced governments to rethink its priorities, accessibility to basic potable water becomes the need of the hour.
Against the target of providing tap connections to 12.45 lakh households in the year 2019-20, only 48,852 households were covered.
What is fluorosis?
Fluorosis is a painful disease caused due to lack of potable drinking water and lack of adequate nutrition. Excessive fluoride intake causes paraplegia, arthritis and other diseases. It also affects human intelligence, especially in children who are most susceptible to early fluoride toxicity.
As there is no treatment for severe cases of fluorosis, efforts can only be made towards reducing disability. However, the disease is easily preventable if diagnosed early and steps are taken to prevent intake of excess fluoride through the provision of safe drinking water, adequate nutrition, etc.
According to a UN report, NJJM, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) requested Assam State Government to provide potable water in Arsenic and Fluoride affected areas on priority considering the adverse long-term impacts on children due to contaminated drinking water. It also highlighted that, under National Water Quality Sub-Mission (NWQSM), as reported by the state government, 483 out of total 3,726 Arsenic-affected habitations and only 119 out of total 155 Fluoride-affected habitations are provided with safe drinking water. It was also observed that out of Rs 330.96 crore released to the state government in the last three years, only Rs 50.27 Crore has been utilized, which needs immediate attention.
The UN report further highlights:
In the state, 2.33 % households have tap connection. By 2024, every household is to be provided with functional household tap connection with service level of 55 litre per capita per day.
To achieve JJM goal by 2024, state has to provide, on an average, at least 11.32 lakh household connections every year till 2024. As on date, as reported by state, only 22,000 household connections have been made in the current financial year.
A sum of Rs 289.33 Crore has been released under Jal Jeevan Mission which is the part of 1st instalment. Out of which, reported expenditure is 22.51%.
There is provision under JJM that performing States/ UTs will be incentivized through additional funds out of remaining funds available at the far end of the financial year. Accordingly, State must have state share provision for that additional fund.
The State has 107 drinking water quality testing laboratories. Only state level laboratory is NABL accredited. The state government may expedite NABL accreditation of all laboratories. The laboratories should also be opened up to public for getting quality of their water source/ supply tested.
What is Jal Jeevan Mission?
Under the newly launched Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), every rural household is to be provided with Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) by 2024. The programme focuses on service delivery at household level, i.e. water supply on regular basis in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality. Every public institution, viz. Gram Panchayat building, school, Anganwadi, health centre, etc. are also to be provided with tap water connection.
JJM is a decentralized, demand-driven, community-managed programme where every Gram Panchayat and/ or its sub-committee, i.e. Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC)/ Paani Samiti/ User Group, etc. is to plan, implement, manage, operate and maintain their in-village water supply infrastructure. Not only this participatory approach will instill ‘sense of ownership’ among the local community, create an environment of trust and bring in transparency leading to better implementation and long-term O&M of water supply systems, but also develop responsible and responsive leadership at village level to manage an essential service like water supply.
Every village is to prepare a Village Action Plan (VAP) which involves plan for water resource management, water supply and grey water treatment & reuse. State has to firm up village, block and district wise timelines/ plan for 100% FHTCs. While planning, priority is to be given to water quality affected areas, water scarce villages, villages coming under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna and Aspirational districts. NGOs, voluntary organizations, women Self Help Groups, etc. are to be empanelled as Implementation Support Agencies (ISAs) to mobilize and handhold the local community in implementing JJM.