NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned the focus on the country’s precarious water situation in his Independence Day speech, announcing Rs 3.35 lakh crore for the government’s ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission to conserve water resources and provide drinking water for all.
Urging people to conserve water, Modi said half the country’s households still lacked access to drinking water, although previous governments too tried in their own ways to mitigate the water crises.
Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, the Har Ghar Jal programme aims to provide all rural households with piped drinking water. HT reported on August 3 that the prime minister was likely to announce the water mission in his Independence Day address from Red Fort.
Modi said water conservation could not merely remain a government programme and called upon citizens to take it up as a community-led campaign.
“This scheme shouldn’t remain a government scheme but be a public one, like the cleanliness drive undertaken earlier,” Modi said, referring to the Swachh Bharat sanitation scheme.
The prime minister quoted Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, saying when “water is exhausted, nature stops working and destruction starts”.
Gujarati saint Buddhi Sagar Maharaj wrote 100 years ago that a day would come when water would be sold in grocery stores, he said.
“There was always a lot of discussion on water crises. The future will be marked by water scarcity, this too is widely discussed. To be prepared for these eventualities and so that central and state governments work in a concerted way, we have created a new Jal Shakti ministry,” the PM said.
The Jal Shakti ministry has been created by merging the ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation as well as the ministry of drinking water and sanitation.
“Our mothers and sisters in many parts of the country have to fetch water by walking three-three, five-five kilometres, carrying water pots on their heads. That’s why we have resolved to spend more than Rs 3 lakh crore in the coming years,” Modi said.
Under the Jal Jeevan Mission, the government aims to focus on rainwater harvesting and water conservation in 256 water-scarce districts in the first phase. The government has also said it will start a campaign to renovate and replenish traditional water bodies and tanks.
According to the Niti Aayog, the government think-tank, 1,592 blocks in these 256 districts are severely water-stressed.
The Jal Jeevan Mission will merge existing and new central and state government schemes to achieve sustainable water supply management across the country. “We will have to achieve five times what has been achieved in the past years in the water sector because of the crisis,” the PM said.
Atul Dev, a former official of the Central Groundwater Authority, said, “Laying of hard infrastructure like piped connections of course involves substantial engineering expenditure. But bridging the gap between households with connections and those receiving water and maintaining the sustainability of these water sources are also equally important components.”
Aug 15, 2019 22:40 IST