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Jal Jeevan Mission Quenches Thirst of Millions: Achieves 60% Coverage Milestone

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, 60% of rural families now have access to clean drinking water through taps. More than 1.55 lakh villages (25 percent of total number of villages) in India have reported 'Har Ghar Jal,' which means that every household in these villages has access to safe drinking water through taps on their property.

Shivam Dwivedi
Jal Jeevan Mission is more than just a scheme for infrastructural development
Jal Jeevan Mission is more than just a scheme for infrastructural development

Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, one tap connection is delivered per second from January to March 2023. This is a great achievement, as 86,894 additional tap water connections were delivered every day on average during the first three months of 2023.

On August 15, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Jal Jeevan Mission, with the goal of providing appropriate quantity (55 lpcd) water of prescribed quality at adequate pressure to all rural homes on a regular and long-term basis. Jal Jeevan Mission has a total financial commitment of INR 3600 billion (US $ 43.80 billion), making it one of the world's largest charity programmes.

At the time of the Mission's beginning in August 2019, just 3.23 million rural households (16.65%) had access to running water. Despite significant setbacks in recent years, such as the Pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis, States/UTs have worked tirelessly to implement the Jal Jeevan Mission. On April 4, 2023, the country passed another milestone on the road to 'Har Ghar Jal,' with over 11.66 crore (60%) rural households receiving tap water. Gujarat, Telangana, Goa, Haryana, and Punjab have all declared 100% coverage, as have the three union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman Diu & Dadra Nagar Haveli, and Puducherry. The country is steadily working towards providing safe drinking water through taps to all rural families.

Jal Jeevan Mission is more than just a scheme for infrastructural development. The Mission's emphasis is on service delivery in terms of sufficiency, safety, and consistency of water supply. JJM implementation has been unique in terms of speed and scope. In just over three years, the initiative has benefited over 8.42 crore rural households and over 40 crore people (at 4.95 people per rural home, according to IMIS). This is higher than the population of the United States (33.1 crore), nearly twice that of Brazil (21 crore) and Nigeria (20 crore), and more than three times that of Mexico (12.8 crore) and Japan (12.6 crore).

Special efforts have been made, with a focus on children's health and well-being, to provide tap water connections in all rural schools, anganwadi centres, and ashramshalas (tribal residential schools) for drinking, cooking mid-day meals, hand washing, and toilet usage. As of today, tap water is available in 9.03 lakh (88.26%) schools and 9.36 lakh (83.71%) anganwadi centres.

One of the primary considerations under the JJM has been "supply of safe water." There were 14,020 Arsenic and 7,996 Fluoride afflicted recorded habitations in the country at the time of JJM's inception. With the combined efforts of states/UTs, the number of such habitations has been reduced to 612 and 431 correspondingly in the three years after the introduction of JJM. Even in these habitations, safe water for drinking and cooking is now available to all residents. In effect, all 1.79 crore people living in arsenic or fluoride-affected areas now have safe drinking and cooking water.

There are 2,078 water testing labs in operation, 1,122 of which are NABL recognized. More than 21 lakh women have been taught in rural areas to analyze water samples using Field Test Kits to raise awareness about water quality (FTKs). In 2022-23 alone, 1.03 crore water samples were analyzed by FTKs, while 61 lakh water samples were evaluated by laboratories. The Mission conducted a special 'Swachh Jal se Suraksha' campaign, and water quality testing has been reported in 5.33 lakh villages for chemical contamination and 4.28 lakh villages for biological contamination (post monsoon) during the year 2022-23.

The fact that more than 1.64 crore water samples have been checked in 2022-23 alone, more than three times the amount of samples tested in 2018-19, demonstrates the robustness of the government's water quality surveillance efforts (50 lakhs). These initiatives are likely to result in a considerable decrease in the number of cases of water-borne infections in the country. JJM is being developed as a decentralized, demand-driven, community-managed initiative using a bottom-up strategy. Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, over 5.24 lakh Paani Samitis/Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSC) have been formed, and over 5.12 lakh Village Action Plans have been prepared to manage, operate, and maintain in-village water supply infrastructure.

Jal Jeevan Mission has truly become a people's movement, i.e. 'Jan Andolan,' with the active engagement of people, particularly women, and rural communities working together. Local communities and Gram Panchayats are stepping forward to manage village water supply infrastructure, water resources, and grey water for long-term drinking water security. States/UTs are assisting Panchayats by engaging Implementation Support Agencies (ISAs) to facilitate the formation of VWSCs, community mobilization, assistance in developing Village Action Plans, and carrying out activities following infrastructure building. Almost 14 thousand ISAs have been hired and are currently operating in the field.

99 respected Govt and non-Governmental academic institutions/ agencies/ firms/ organizations/ think tanks/ training institutes, etc. have been engaged as Key Resource Centres to create capacity and realign the various stakeholders (KRCs). The Jal Jeevan Mission employs Key Resource Centres to enhance the capacity of over 18,000 people. In addition, to supplement the efforts and support the States/UTs, the Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation has formalised a Rural Wash Partners' Forum (RWPF), in which development partners and sector partners involved in WASH have come forward to work collaboratively with the Government of India and the States/UTs to ensure the successful implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission.

Long-term service delivery in rural communities requires the sustainability of ground and spring water sources. In this backdrop, the fundamental focus of Jal Shakti Abhiyan 2023 has been "Source Sustainability for Drinking Water" (JSA-2023-SSDW). This will bring the essential focus on water conservation in order to improve and sustain drinking water supply sources, particularly ground water sources and springs.

Jal Jeevan Mission has a wide-ranging impact on society. Women and young girls are relieved of the drudgery of lugging large headloads of water to meet their daily household needs when there is regular tap water delivery. Women, on the other hand, can use the time spared from collecting water to engage in income-generating activities, learn new skills, and contribute to their children's education. Adolescent girls no longer have to miss school to assist their mother in water gathering.

According to a study conducted by Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Kremer and his team, providing safe drinking water to households can cut infant mortality by about 30%. Diarrhea is a highly frequent illness, especially among newborns. Newborns are more vulnerable to water-related illnesses. The study concludes that one in every four deaths (1.36 lakh under five deaths per year) involving children under the age of five can be avoided in India by providing safe water.

The JJM also creates direct and indirect job possibilities in rural areas. According to a preliminary study conducted by IIM Bengaluru, approximately 1,47,55,980 person-years of employment can be created throughout the five-year term of JJM implementation. This equates to an average of 29,51,196 individuals employed in the Mission's building phase each year for the entire year. The Mission will also result in the employment of around 10.92 lakh persons each year for the operation and maintenance of piped water supply schemes.

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