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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently released the operational guidelines of Jal Jeevan Mission which is centre govt’s initiative to provide Functional Household Tap Connections to every rural household by 2024. Out of 17.87 crore rural households in the country about 14.6 crore which accounts for 81.67 percent are yet to have household tap connections for water. The Jal Jeevan Scheme will be implemented through institutional mechanism at four levels – national, state, district and gram panchayat or its sub committees. Women will play a bigger role in this scheme and the paani samitis or the user group will decide about the user fee for sustainability of the scheme.

Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • The Mission was announced in August 2019
  • The chief objective of the Mission is to provide piped water supply (Har Ghar Jal) to all rural and urban households by 2024.
  • It also aims to create local infrastructure for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission is set to be based on various water conservation efforts like point recharge, desilting of minor irrigation tanks, use of greywater for agriculture and source sustainability.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country.

 Need for and significance of the mission:

  • India has 16% of the world population, but only 4% of freshwater resources. Depleting groundwater level, overexploitation and deteriorating water quality, climate change, etc. are major challenges to provide potable drinking water.
  • It is an urgent requirement of water conservation in the country because of the decreasing amount of groundwater level. Therefore, the Jal Jeevan Mission will focus on integrated demand and supply management of water at the local level.

Operational Guidelines for the implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission:

  • The new guidelines will emphasise the critical role of the gram panchayat level paani samiti or village committee to run and maintain the water supply system in their community and also bring in systems for water use charges.
  • The new Mission will underline the need for a clear and definite O&M policy at the state level which will involve a water user charge mechanism by ensuring ‘cost recovery from user groups and thereby avoiding any unwanted burden on public exchequer’.
  • JJM envisages a structural change in the provision of drinking water supply services. It will bring in a utility based approach’ centered on ‘service delivery’.
  • Such a reform is proposed in the guidelines so as to enable the institutions to function as utilities focusing on services and recover water tariff/ user fee.
  • For the implementation of the Mission, institutional arrangements will be made from national to state, district and Gram Panchayat level which will have the the Paani Samiti.
  • The village community in fact will be a key and active stakeholder for the Mission. To bring in sense of ownership and pride among rural communities, 5% capital cost contribution towards in-village water supply infrastructure in hilly, forested, and more than 50% SC/ ST dominant population villages, and 10% in the remaining villages is proposed.
  • Further, communities will be rewarded by providing 10% of the in-village infrastructure cost of the scheme which will be maintained by them as a revolving fund to meet any unforeseen expenditure due to break down, etc.
  • Self Help groups and NGOs will be roped in to handhold and facilitate the implementation of in-village infrastructure and community participation process.
  • The guidelines, however, also bring in a new paradigm of central funding involving incentivising performing states. It is proposed that good performance of the States/ UTs will be incentivized out of the fund not utilized by other States at the fag end of the financial year.
  • Time bound completion of schemes taken up under National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) has been proposed. No extension of time or cost escalation will be allowed except for the cost towards retrofitting the same to provide FHTCs.
  • No expenditure towards O&M cost of the schemes like electricity charges, salary of regular staff and purchase of land, etc. will be allowed out of Central share.Third party inspection is proposed to be undertaken before making any payment to instill accountability.
  • Every village is to prepare a village action plan (VAP) which will be essentially having three components- water source & its maintenance, water supply and grey water management. This plan will feed into the district and state plans.

Reasons for Water Stress and Water Scarcity:

  • Water scarcity is the insufficient availability of water resources to the demands of water usage within a region or a country.
  • Water Stress is a different thing than water scarcity, it is difficulty in accessing the sources of fresh water for use over a period of time which may result in further depletion of water in the region.
  • Inefficient water management and uneven distribution: In India, some regions have an excess amount of water for their needs or requirements while some regions are facing droughts or have less amount of water simultaneously.
  • Improper water irrigation: as we know India is one of the top agricultural countries in the world so they need for the water for irrigation is very high.
  • Traditional techniques of the water irrigation resulted in the loss of water due to evaporation, drainage, excess use of groundwater, etc.
  • Government several policies to farmers for providing free electricity and financial support for water extraction through tube wells and bore wells resulted in the exploitation of water.
  • Rapid urbanization, industrialization, population growth, demand for domestic use increases the demand for water in India.
  • Water pollution in the form of disposal of industrial wastes, domestic wastes into the freshwater bodies like rivers, lakes have resulted in polluting water bodies. Hence eutrophication of surface water along with coastal water will increase.
  • The most common reason is that water is not valued in India.
  • Poor water storage: During the monsoon season the desilting operations of the water bodies, dams, etc are not done at the time affecting the water storage capacity of India.
  • Poor legislation on groundwater extraction, political reasons for not valuing water, etc. enhance water scarcity in India.

Steps need to be taken:

  • First, India needs to reconsider the institutional processes for dissemination of knowledge about water resource management.
  • There is a certain amount of danger inherent in the casual manner in which knowledge about water resources is legitimised and consumed, particularly in these days of ‘viral’ information.
  • Second, we need to recognise the crisis is not as much of scarcity as of delivery.
  • The challenge is to ensure an adequate access to quality water, more so in urban areas where inequities over space and time are acute.
  • We need to also realise that with the country’s rapid urbanisation, demand cannot be met by groundwater reserves alone.
    • For instance, according to the Delhi Jal Board estimates, groundwater meets just 10% of Delhi’s drinking water needs. The rest is met by surface water sources, most of it transported from outside Delhi.
  • The urban needs, which underpin much reporting on ‘water crises’, need to be met by robust long-term planning and preparation for droughts and other contingencies.
  • Cities need to stop the destruction of local water bodies and local tree cover, treat its sewage properly, harvest rainwater, and stop straightening and concretizing the rivers and encroaching on their floodplain.

Way Forward:

  • India’s priority must be:
    • To make our irrigation and water systems amenable to modern concepts.
    • To complete irrigation and water sector reforms.
    • To implement improved water management, governance and regulation practices.
    • Pricing system for water: For making people use water efficiently
  • Bigger program on water efficiency as energy efficiency – Setting standards for water management.
  • Ensuring minimal pollution in both urban areas and industry.
  • Fixing India’s water crisis will need well balanced policies, meticulous strategy and a massive amount of public participation.
  • Sugarcane consumes a disproportionate amount of water and water-stressed regions must make an effort to move away from the crop.
  • Comprehensive restructuring of India’s Central Ground Water Board and the Central Water Commission in order to create a new 21st Century management authority.
  • Right to water should mean a high priority to drinking water.
  • India has so far seen the water sector in terms of irrigation projects or water schemes. We need to balance between our water-needs and that of the river itself.