People in the temple town of Puri in Odisha can now drink water straight from the tap whenever and and wherever they want to. For a country where households go to great lengths to purify their water for drinking and cooking purposes, that represents a huge leap. Ensuring tap water for drinking in every household by 2024 is the stated aim of the Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission and crores of households are already reported to have gained access to potable water. Here’s what Puri has done and the progress on piped drinking water for the rest of the country.
How Did Puri Achieve Tap Water Connections For All?
On July 26, Odisha Chief Minister said that the ‘Sujal-Drink From Tap Mission’ is going live in Puri, the coastal town famous for the Jagannath Temple and the annual Rath Yatra. The state government said that the initiative would benefit the 2.5 lakh residents of Puri and the estimated 2 crore tourists and pilgrim who visit the town every year. Importantly, the 24×7 drinking water supply would also cover about 66,000 slum dwellers.
The government has set up 120 drinking water fountains along the Grand Road leading to the Jagannath Temple and other popular places in Puri with The Telegraph adding that “100 per cent of its nearly 32,500 taps were fitted with meters" to facilitate the launch of the scheme.
How Will Water Quality Be Tracked?
The Odisha government said that the quality of the drinking water conforms to IS 10500 specifications set by the Bureau of Indian Standards and an elaborate mechanism has been put in place to monitor and address any issues that crop up with the water supply.
To begin with, as part of its ‘Drink From Tap Mission‘, the state government is setting up laboratories in ‘Public-Private Partnership’ (PPP) mode for “regular water quality monitoring and surveillance across all major cities and towns… to ensure third-party quality monitoring". Mobile van laboratories have been deployed for on-site testing and addresssing water quality issues while a centralised monitoring and tracking system for customer complaints has been put in place that utilises a geographical information systems (GIS) and enables real-time monitoring of field data.
Further, a centralised customer care system has been set up for registering complaints related to water supply and quality while “exclusive mobile crews have been set up with dedicated vehicles and equipment for immediate response to leakages and supply-related incidence management".
Additionally, to win public trust on the question of drinking water straight from the tap, the state government is installing LED boards at public places to share “real-time online water quality data".
Who Are ‘Jalsathis’?
A highlight of the project, which aims to cover 114 Urban Local Bodies (ULB) in Odisha in a phased manner, benefiting a population of more than 40 lakh people, is the creation of a cadre of ‘Jalsathis’, an all-women crew drawn from self-help groups who will be responsible for distribution and consumer management at the ward level. As it seeks to reach more than 12 lakh households, the scheme will partner with 5,000 Jalsathis who will facilitate new connections, generate bills and collect charges and also accomplish field water quality testing while sensitising people on water conservation.
“The state government has planned to cover all urban areas of Odisha by March 2022, making it the state first to do so in India. Supplying drink-from-tap quality water to every home, similar to developed nations like USA, England, Japan, Singapore," said a statement from the Odisha government.
What Is India’s Progress On Piped Water Supply And Drinking Water From Taps?
The Narendra Modi government launched the Jal Jeevan Mission on August 15, 2019, to provide tap water supply to every rural home by 2024. A statement from the Ministry of Jal Shakti in March this year said that a total of 7.24 crore rural households, which is 38 per cent of the total are now “getting potable water through taps".
Unicef notes that less than 50 per cent of the population in India has access to safely managed drinking water while chemical contamination “mainly through fluoride and arsenic is present in 1.96 (close to 20 lakh) million dwellings". Reports earlier this year cited the UN agency as having found that about 5 crore people across 15 cities have no access to safe, affordable drinking water.
Unicef adds that water-borne diseases in India cost the country about $600 million a year with drought- and flood-prone areas among the worst affected.
According to the reply to a question in Lok Sabha, the Jal Jeevan Mission aims to provide “every rural household in the country to have potable water at service level of 55 litre per capita per day" through a functional household tap connection (FHTC) by 2024. The project is estimated to cost Rs 3.6 lakh crore of which the Centre will foot more than 55 per cent while the states will pitch in with the rest.
Further, in her 2021 Budget speech, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) “to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all 4,378 statutory towns" in the country. More than 2.6 crore households are projected to be covered under the scheme.
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