Government Policies and Efforts from NGOs Download PDF

For the drinking water to be of greatest purity, every government enforces standards which classify certain qualities of water as usable and the others as non usable. Indian government has recognized these standard guidelines and put them as a part of legal framework. (Indian Standard Drinking Water Specification (BIS 10500: 1991).  UNICEF is also supporting GOI programs on arsenic and fluoride mitigation. National Water Policy also clearly establishes that provision to provide adequate and assured safe drinking water is of utmost priority in the country.

  • New ‘Jal Shakti’ Ministry: The new ministry formed by merging the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has promised to ensure potable, piped drinking water to every home by 2024. This move aims at improving India’s structural water crisis that requires sustainable long term policies. As water is a State subject, providing water for drinking is the responsibility of the state.
  • River Inter-linking program: A brainchild of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, government in its 2019 election manifesto promised to ensure a long term solution to the problems of drinking water and irrigation. However, environmentalists are concerned over its impacts such as massive displacement of people, expensive affair, and affect the entire ecosystem of the surrounding area.
  • Increased Community Participation: World Bank-supported projects have shown that communities are indeed capable of managing their water supply services, if some facilitation is done by local governments. Some of the success stories of states on water management are worth mentioning:
  1. Mission Kakatiya (Telangana): The mission entails the comprehensive revival of over 40,000 tanks in the State which has led to visible improvements in groundwater levels. It has become a major success despite lack of central funds and becomes a global attention.
  2. Jalanidhi (Kerala) provided a dependable supply of piped water to 192,000 rural homes in 13 districts
  3. Swajal (Uttarakhand): Over 8,000 habitations built their own water supply systems. Thus, strong community involvement reduced the cost of systems, rural homes received 24/7 water supply through gravity-based piped systems
  4. Jal Swarajya (Maharashtra) has brought clean drinking water into 1.2 million homes, more than half of whom were below the poverty line.
  5. Jal Nirmal (Karnataka): By decentralizing services to rural communities, the Karnataka Jal Nirmal project(2002-2013) improved water supply for about 7 million rural inhabitants in 11 districts of Northern Karnataka.

Waterman of India

Ramon Magsaysay awardee Rajinder Singh is a well known water conservationist and environmentalist. He is credited with harvesting rain water for drinking and domestic purposes by building check dams in Alwar and nearby districts of Rajasthan. The idea was to revive the use of traditional technology of Johad, an ancient water conservation technique to replenish the water sources. Johad is a concave structure that collects and stores water throughout the year for drinking purposes by humans and cattle. It is the successful implementation of this ancient innovation that earned him the name 'Jal Purush' or the 'Waterman of Rajasthan'. The sincere efforts of ‘Waterman’ for eradicating drinking water scarcity in the rural areas of Rajasthan inspired many NGOs within the country and abroad. The transformation was visible and long term. Now, women need not walk for miles to fetch water, neither do men have to leave their homes for work, as the land under cultivation in villages have increased manifold and farm incomes have been on a rise. He also played an instrumental role in revitalization of five rivers that had gone dry for long time.

Bunker Roy – A mix of Technology and Tradition

Bunker Roy is an Indian social activist and educator who founded the Barefoot College. It is based in Tilonia, which is a small village in Rajasthan. What makes this college unique is that it believes in identifying and using skills, knowledge and practical experience of ordinary people in the community itself to provide for basic needs such as drinking water. The College takes men, women and children who are illiterate and semi-literate from the lowest castes, and from the most remote and inaccessible villages in India, and trains them at their own pace to become “barefoot” water and solar engineers.

A hundred year old traditional method to collect rain water through roofs with low cost materials came to the rescue. Economically it is cheaper and the village committee could be empowered to control and distribute the water without being dependent on the outside for any technical, human and financial resource. The college confidently rejects the outside professionals and does not believe in technology that deprives people of their jobs, increases dependency and leads to exploitation.  They believe that the mindset of the technological engineers is that problems of water shortage and drinkability can only be solved if expensive and deep well drilling rigs exploit the ground water or pump water from a permanent water source through pipes. However, people of the Tilonia village rejected the idea and instead resorted to simpler cost effective solutions. The college’s staggering achievements include regular piped water supply systems to atleast 10 villages around Tilonia designed and implemented entirely by the local people.

Ralegan Siddhi - A Case Study

Raleghan Siddhi is in a drought-prone and rain-shadowed area of India which faced a severe water crisis that resulted in people having to struggle to find drinking water during part of the year. IN 1975, Anna Hazare who had once lived in the village, returned, determined to improve the situation of the country. He began to involve the community and especially the youth. In order to bring back water, he undertook projects with the villagers to construct nalla bunds, install boreholes and hand-pumps to provide drinking water. The village does not any longer have to worry about having drinking water year round, and the woman no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water.

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