NEW DELHI: Only 20.7% rural population is getting enough and safe pipe water supply to quench their thirst. But, a government, poised to chalk out a historic achievement of covering 80% population by 2022, is facing an uphill task. The funds to provide drinking water to the rural population is shrinking and expenditure for reviving existing yet impoverished water sources is fast drying up. Ministry of Drinking Water of NDA government has candidly admitted that it may not achieve the target at this pace. The Ministry was hoping to receive minimum Rs.16, 900 Crore per annum, instead it received just Rs.6050 Crore for 2017-18 – a whopping Rs.10, 000 Crore less than it was aspiring for. A 24-page draft note prepared by the Ministry reveals a messy tale that deprives a majority of population of their basic right. Ministry of Drinking Water has put the blame on the Finance Ministry.
“Budget estimate of 2017-18 is Rs.6050 Crore. Such level of funding by government of India is meager compared to the overall requirement to achieve Sustainable Development Goals- 2030. If Government is to have pivotal role, we must continue National Rural Drinking Water Programme and must have annual funding as high as possible but at least to the tune of around Rs.16,900 annually (i.e. 10% incremental increase over Rs.10,500 provided during 2012-13. However, Ministry of Finance is suggesting to restrict the requirement at the present BE level for 2017-18 and 10% annual increase for the subsequent 2 years,” the draft EFC note stated.
The note dated July 3 2017 although highlighted that reduction is due to 14th finance commission recommendation that enhanced devolution of grants to the states by 10%, the central government will have to pitch in if it wants to achieve the target and reap the benefit at a faster pace.
“The present status clearly shows that the achievement towards pipe water supply coverage -55 litres Per Capita Per Day (LPED) including stand posts is only 20.70% -in terms of population and 15.62% in terms of habitations. Hence, there is a long way to go.”
“It is pertinent to mention here that during 12th five year plan (2012-2017) there was a plan outlay of Rs. 68,760 Crore whereas allocation was only Rs.39,820 Crore. Thus there was a shortfall of about Rs.30,000 Crores in this period itself ,” the Ministry note said.
The Ministry pointed out that as on March 31 2017, over 3.85 Lakh habitations are not covered with 40 LPED. Amidst the substantial reduction of budget, the Centre has launched a new piped water supply strategy known as ‘Har Ghar Jal ( Water in every household) to ensure that all rural households have access to clean piped water supply in adequate quantity. The Ministry estimates that it would require at least Rs. 6 Lakh Crore to meet the target. The funding ratio of drinking water programme between Centre-State is 50-50 except North East and 3 Himalayan States-Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where funding pattern in 90% Centre-10% funds to be released by the states.
Interestingly, the NDA’s ministry has admitted that many states are investing much more funds than requisite matching central share in projects as the government funding is meager compared to the overall requirements of the states. Ministry said that with the present rate of funding, Individual household tap connections which at present are 15.57% may go up to only 27% in 2020.
Dirty Water Is Huge Problem
“Assets of this sector is not like assets of railways, which once created will last very long. Assets of rural water supply schemes get dysfunctional mainly because of availability of raw water resources which is beyond the control of executing agencies. Water (underground) is getting depleted because of excessive extraction by competitive sectors (Agriculture/Industrial) and successive droughts. Water (Surface) getting reduced because of silting of water bodies, successive droughts, pollution (agriculture/Industrial) release of untreated waste water, deforestation and encroachment of water bodies,” the Ministry’s note further added.
The Ministry working under tremendous financial pressure is aiming to mitigate arsenic and fluoride affected habitation under the national water quality sub-mission programme. As per the information provided by the states to the Ministry in August last year, 27,544 arsenic and fluoride affected habitations have been freezed under the scheme. Out of these, schemes are ongoing in 3,894 habitations and the rest 23,650 habitations are remained to be tackled in the affected habitations.