India’s drinking water conundrum is a major concern to improve the quality of life of citizens. The Government of India has rolled out some major schemes to address the situation. Meanwhile, State governments have also taken serious initiatives in this direction. Sharing her insights on how Gujarat is making strides to achieve the “drinking water for all” target, Dr. Jincy Roy, CEO, Water & Sanitation Management Organisation, Gujarat interacted with Hemangini Kanth Rajput of Elets News Network (ENN).
It is known that to harness an initiative like AatmaNirbhar Bharat, smart rural water supply ecosystems are needed with quality service delivery. How is WASMO faring on this front?
We have constituted ‘Pani Samitis’ at the village level to cater to all the drinking water needs of a village. These Samitis are headed by the village Sarpanchs. Most of the villages have multiple sources of drinking water. Pani Samitis take over the work to supply/ distribute drinking water to the villagers and make their own schemes. They execute the works, collect the tariff, and take care of the maintenance works and all the water conservation structures that have been developed in the villages. Meanwhile, WASMO provides all the technical help that is needed. As of now, we are in a good position as the village schemes are headed by the villagers, executed by the villagers, and maintained by the villagers.
What are the challenges that you face while providing piped water supply to tribal & rural areas? What are the solutions that you are implementing to address the situation?
A multi-pronged approach is the need of the hour. In Gujarat, we do have tribal areas, we have plains and other terrains as well. Therefore, a multi-pronged approach is needed. Our learnings have been helpful in overcoming administrative hurdles and making better decisions suitable to the people residing on a particular terrain. In Gujarat, some of the tribal areas are hard to reach and thus it becomes difficult to ensure last-mile connectivity in terms of providing water supply. Therefore, we adopted multiple approaches wherein we increased the diameter of the pipelines, and optimised operations of pumping stations, among others to ensure that the last village gets adequate water supply.
Further, we have realised that the Government cannot reach out to all the villages by itself therefore we have roped in NGOs who work on the field and handhold Pani Samitis to execute their tasks. Pani Samitis are the ones working to cater to all the drinking water requirements in the villages. Also, they provide interactive programs on how water is supplied through taps. The major issue is that of ownership. Once you are aware that there is a source of drinking water available in a village then only they understand the efforts that go behind the entire process of providing drinking water, especially in difficult terrains.
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We are also training Pani Samitis for quality assessment. As an example, the tests for tracking the presence of bacteria in a particular water sample are also conducted by Pani Samitis. We have trained the members of the Samitis to conduct chemical tests, especially the female members have been trained for this job.
What is your future roadmap to achieving access to clean & safe drinking water for all?
We are right now focussing on providing functional tap connections in all households. While working for the initiative and executing the water supply works, we have our share of learning so far. The Government of Gujarat has an ambitious plan to achieve the target of providing tap water connection to all households by the September of this year. However, the Central Government has kept the target to be achieved by 2024.
Once we have achieved the target of providing functional tap water connectivity to all households, the next target for us would be to provide surface water to all villages. Also, we will ensure that quality should be the focus alongside the quantity of the water supplied. We also have another ambitious plan to install water meters in the villages. This is also important to ensure proper implementation of the Water Act.