Kurukshetra June 2019 - Drinking Water for Rural India (Part -1) (Download PDF)

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Key Topics Included In This Article: Water Availability in Rural Areas, Govt. Initiatives, Community & water Quality mgmt, Availability of Safe & clean Water, Drinking Water Situation in Rural India, Water & public Health, Drinking Water Quality Monitoring, Role of Gram Panchayat (GP) in O & M, Traditional Rainwater Harvesting (TRH) Structures, Revival Strategies for TRH Structures, Brief History & development of Yoga, Yoga in East & West, Mechanism of Action how Yoga Works, Yoga as Science of Linking Mind Body Soul, Yoga Improves Mental & Physical Health.

  • Sustainable Development Goals 2015 - 2030, include Goal 6, which emphasizes upon importance of ensuring availability & sustainable management of water & sanitation.
  • This means ‘leaving no one behind ’ in terms of access to safe water which was theme of this year’s ‘World Water Day’ observed on 22nd March.
  • Other measures include rainwater harvesting which is one of most important initiatives that can help in a sustained supply of safe drinking water in rural areas.
  • In terms of critical issue for drinking water such as source sustainability, water quality mgmt. & better operation & maintenance, it is important that strong grass

Ensuring safe & adequate drinking water

  • United Nations Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED) has rightly themed this year’s Water Day ‘leaving no one behind’.
  • Sustainable Development Goals, include Goal 6 for clean water & sanitation for ensuring their availability & sustainable mgmt.
  • According to global reports released by United Nations, 2.1 billion people live w/o safe drinking water at home & 80 % of those who have to use unsafe & unprotected water sources, reside in rural areas.

Water Availability in Rural Areas

  • In 1950 India had 3,000 - 4,000 cubic meters of water per person. Today, this has fallen to around 1,000 cubic meters, largely due to population growth.
  • Acceding to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) (2011 - 12), about 88.5 % households in rural India had improved source of drinking water & among these, 85.8 % had sufficient drinking water.

Govt. initiatives

  • Bhore Committee in 1946 to Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (1972), & ‘Swajal Dhara’ scheme (1999) by empowering & involving local communities in tacking water & sanitation issues. In 1981 GOI launched international Water Supply & Sanitation Decade (81 - 90) Programme w/one of targets being 100 % coverage of Rural & urban population w/safe drinking water supply facilities.
  • ‘Bharat Nirman’ a created required infrastructure to have good quality water to rural households.
  • Rural drinking water was one of six components of Bharat Nirman.
  • National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) aims at assisting States in providing adequate & safe drinking water to rural population in country.
  • In 2019 - 19, scheme was allocated Rs. 7,000 cr. & Ministry is aspiring to achieve ‘Har Ghar Jal’ by 2030, in line w/UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Earlier, drinking water to rural population has been provided thru hand pump, tube wells & piped water supply, preferably thru a balanced mix of sustainable surface & ground water based resources.
  • As on 31 December 2018,79 % of rural habitations had been covered at 40 lpcd but only 47 % at 55 lpcd.
  • Till 6 January 2019,18 % of rural households had been provided w/Piped Water Supply (PWS) household connections.
  • Some States have provided piped water to more than half of rural households while others such as Uttar Pradesh & Bihar have minimal (Less than 5%) piped water coverage.
  • A pilot project in name of “Swajal” that is designed as a demand driven & community Centred programme to provide sustainable access to drinking water to people in rural areas.
  • Swajal was originally launched in February 2018 in six States of Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand & Rajasthan.
  • Central Govt. has come up w/a Rs. 6,000 cr. World Bank aided Atul Bhujal Yojana w/community participation to ensure sustained groundwater mgmt. in overexploited & ground water stressed areas in seven states.
  • In March 2017, MDWS started a new sub-programme under NRDWP know as National Water Quality Sub-Mission (NWQSM).
  • Sub-programme aims to address urgent need for providing clean drinking water in already identified 28,000 arsenic & fluoride affected habitations.
  • National Rural Drinking has been launched in Februrary, 2006 under which 5 person in each Gram Panchayat are to e trained to carry out regular surveillance of drinking water sources for which 10 % financial assistance including water testing kits, are provided by Govt.

Challenges & Future Initiatives

  • Rainwater harvesting is one of most important initiatives which can help in a long way in sustaining supply of safe drinking water in rural areas.
  • Central Govt. is working on central Ground Water Board has prepared a conceptual document entitled ‘Master plan for Arterial Recharge to Ground Water in India.
  • UN report cited example of China’s Sponge City which aims to recycle 70 % of rainwater.
  • According to this report collective water storage efforts have benefitted Kadwanchi village in Jalna district in Maharashtra to go in for high value crops such as grapes, ginger & chilies.
  • In past, village have created 347 farm ponds & assed 40 more in 2017 to store monsoon water. Report highlights importance of beris, traditional system of harvesting rainwater that have been working as lifesavers for both humans & animals in parts of western Rajasthan for centuries.
  • Shaped like matkas (pitcher), these shallow wells are dug up in rainwater from percolating downwards but guide them towards wells thru capillary action.

Community Participation & Quality Drinking Water Supply Schematic interventions:

  • In 1949, Bhor Committee advocated for provision of safe water supply to cover 90 % of India’s population within a timeframe of 40 years.
  • First ever formal implementation of Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) during 1972 - 73. ARWSP aimed at speeding up coverage of drinking water supply its approach towards last mile delivery got modified by introduction of National Drinking Water Mission (NDWM) in 1986.
  • First ever National Water Policy was drafted in 1987 to give a concrete direction to approach adopted to create sustainable water infrastructure.
  • In 1991, Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission replaced NDWM. In 1994,73rd constitutional amendment responsibility of drinking water supply to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
  • Initiatives of GOI witnessed implementation of Swajaldhara scheme to fulfill Millennium Development Goal commitment on sustainable access to safe drinking water.
  • National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) was launched in 2003. objective of NRDWP was to cover all rural habitations w/safe drinking water.

Rural Drinking Water Supply Coverage:

  • Post 2012, under restructured NRDWP, focus shifted to improving quality of water supplied to targeted habitations.
  • Data regarding coverage of safe drinking water in rural areas is estimated in teams of fully covered habitations [i. e. more than 40 lpcd or more safe drinking water], partially covered habitations [i. e. less than 40 lpcd] & quality affected habitations [i. e. water w/chemical contaminant].
  • Drinking water coverage status of rural habitations between 2012 - 13 & 2018 - 19 [table-1] indicates that 13.85 lakh habitations out of 17.19 lakh rural habitations have been fully covered under NRDWP & 2.72 lakh habitations are partially covered.

Water Quality Issues

  • Even thru Gol data shows coverage of 80.6% (17.19 lakh) of rural habitations W/drinking water, it indicates neither average actual supply of drinking of water being supplied thru installed capacities in rural areas.
  • A study of quality affected habitations by category of contaminants shows that as many as 4.07 cr. Rural population are suffering from water contamination that varies from fluoride arsenic, iron, salinity, nitrate, heavy metals, etc.

Community & Water Quality Management

  • Community has an important role in maintaining not only hygiene near drinking water sources, in improving ways & means by which water is collected & storage to avoid contamination during collection storage & use.
  • NITI Aayog had recommended commissioning of community water purification plants & advocated for last mile connectivity of piped water supply schemes in 2016.
  • In 2017, Gol launched National Water Quality Sub-Mission to provide safe drinking water to 27,544 arsenic/fluoride affected rural habitations in a span of four years.
  • GOI aims at providing safe drinking water to 90 % of rural population it has outlined a strategic goal 2017 - 20130 to achieve Har Ghar jal by 2030.
  • Community should ensure following to provide safe drinking water in each rural habitations,
  • Social mobilization, initiation of need analysis, preparation of water security plan & village action plan,
  • Discuss & deliberate on sustainability of drinking water schemes, explore new revenue sources like user fees, operation & maintenance fees, etc. for smooth operation & maintenance of water systems;
  • Prepare water safety plan to ensure water quality;
  • Ensure convergence w/line departments of district to plan & execute water.
  • conservation projects under PMKSY, MGNREGA, etc to ensure water recharge & increased water availability in rural areas;
  • Set up technical support cells in consultation w/District/block administration to ensure convergence in community & near project areas;
  • Coordinate w/District/block level authorities for promoting timely execution of water projects & fund utilization towards improving household water connections, operation & maintenance of piped water scheme activities & other water supply systems;
  • Coordinate w/District/block level authorities for adopting technologies & digital medium for monitoring of water schemes;
  • Arranging social audit of water schemes from time to time in consultation w/district line department officials;
  • Arrange training & capacity building programmes on water collection, storage & usage for grass root workers like ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, science teachers, high school girl children, panchayat members, retired army officials, etc,
  • Conduct periodic sanitary survey;
  • Monitor water availability water sources & quality of water & arrange awareness camps;
  • Ensure availability of water testing kit for each Gram Panchayat & regular testing of water in accredited labs;
  • Training a few educated community volunteers on monitoring parameters of water system installed in locality & disseminate in community for better monitoring of schematic interventions.


  • Major challenge before Govt. is to ensure (a) safe drinking water in slipped back habitations thru vigorous restoration of defunct bore pumps, carrying out repairs of water supply pipelines, augmentation of supply wherever required; and (b) sustainability of quality water supply to areas covered under govt. programmes.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Pradhan mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, other schemes for watershed development & restoration of water bodies, etc. backed by a need based village level water planning.

- Published/Last Modified on: July 10, 2019


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