Can Jal Jeevan Mission 2.0 be the ‘Plan’ to Make India a Water-rich Nation?
India’s Union Budget 2021 can be summed up in three words — reinvigorate, reinforce, and restart. The country’s finance minister (FM) and co have framed a long-overdue budget in unprecedented times. After the industry and economy encountered huge shock amidst the COVID-19 crisis, India’s growth engines had to be brought back on track.
Even though the massive fiscal deficit would be a concern for many, these ambiguous times accent for significant government expenditure. The FM has assured capital allocation toward the healthcare industry, social welfare programs, diligent India, and efficient governance.
Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is one of such reforms announced by the FM. The scheme was proposed in India’s Union Budget with a disbursement of Rs 2.87 lakh crore for 4,378 urban local bodies.
A part of ‘Swachch Bharat 2.0’ and an extension of India’s rural water supply project rolled out in 2019, the Jal Jeevan Scheme will ensure safe drinking water via faucet lines to nearly 3 crore urban homes across the country.
Let’s Go a Little Back
The water shortage in India is overwhelming as well as disheartening. For a peninsular nation, more than 600 million people yearly confront acute water shortage and its impacts on gender and health issues.
As such, realizing the hardships of its citizens, the Indian government rolled out various schemes to connect every house in the country with safe drinking water. The urban Jal Jeevan Scheme, 2022 is one such effort.
When the ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan’ was initiated, India’s primary goal was to set up sufficient health and sanitation facilities for all households in the rural areas. While this project was touted as a success in 2019, delivering safe drinking water should not only be the next priority on the list but also the order of the day.
But, according to the report provided by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the rural Jal Jeevan Mission, 2019 has only been able to meet 34% of the targeted households.
Early Success and the Path Forward
Despite its 34% success rate, the rural JJM affected lives in more ways than can be determinable. From ensuring free access to water supplies, the initiative also familiarized people with how to sustain this boon.
However, a blueprint for the initiative’s success cannot be showcased without analyzing the blockades. With the JJM, the main factors can be attributed to
· Insufficient community contribution
· Inaccuracies in proper treatment of water
‘Slippages’ in execution occur when a specific region has been offered access to the facilities of the JJM, however, it cannot be sustained due to factors such as inadequate maintenance or drying up of groundwater.
We must realize the fact that we can deliver what we possess, so preserving water resources and maintaining the water availability at high scales needs to be critical to the efficient delivery of piped water to every house.
So, to make sure that the JJM of 2021–2022 is carried out effectively, policymakers must keep tabs on these areas:
The Indian government — at the domestic level — should enforce regulations for the treatment of wastewater and fecal matter. If not treated appropriately, the fecal matter ends up polluting the potable water thus making even the safe water useless.
Local communities, particularly women-driven movements, play an instrumental role in encouraging responsible practices to sustain and leverage facilities. In rural regions, several households are run by females. As such, educating them about safety measures can help ensure that the JJM benefits the grassroots.
Regular Maintenance and Analysis
The facilities offered to citizens in India will be redundant if they are not maintained properly. The ministry behind providing access to these water catchments should ensure faucets, taps, and any other similar equipment is routinely maintained and kept in optimal condition. This would help prevention of potential slippages and thus making this movement more successful.
In regions where groundwater is at the core of the consumption needs, sufficient arrangements should be done to replenish and maintain reservoirs. This should primarily be done in states that are impacted by droughts or whose groundwater resources have apparently dried out.
This has remarkable implications to attendant concerns such as the preservation of glaciers, forests, and many more, given the efforts to disrupt water security through unauthorized sand mining, construction on river banks, and huge dams.
Innovative Use of Integrated Multi-shareholder Investment Means
India should promote several outcome-driven investment means such as Development Impact Bonds (DIB). Government spending on infrastructure, however insignificant, has to be within the capacity of an outcome shareholder and the private sector can be brought in to contribute to the syndicate of outcome and risk shareholders.
Recently, there were discussions to launch a concept of water exchanges on the lines of the stock market to establish a value to the resource as per supply and demand.
It would imply allocating water resources to high-usage industries such as agriculture, households, among others, and then looking to pricing the purchase or sale of the resource. Every consumer must also comprehend the need to value this exceptionally precious resource.
Also, it calls for coordination among several ministries such as Water Resources, Environment, Agriculture, Soil and Water Conservation, and Jal Jeevan Missions.
The JJM is an ambitious project rolled out by the Indian government to make sure that the national public has access to clean and safe drinking water. While it is comprehensible that for such an enormous and diverse nation, the level of the execution is remarkable and the galvanizing of resources is significant, undoubtedly this has to be done.
Moreover, what we truly need here is not monetary allocations but effective organization and execution at the ground level. To make sure that this Jal Jeevan Mission thrives in its second attempt, India has to tighten the screw on the grassroots and keep a hawk-eye on the project timelines.