Enlarging the Access to Clean Water
Government of India’s investment in Jal Jeevan Mission has a significant multiplier effect on health as has been brought out by a report of the World Health Organisation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated the commitment to strengthen “Jal Jeevan Mission” and has underlined the role of access to clean water in public health.
The Prime Minister’s reassertion came in the wake of the recent WHO report that said that 4 Lakh lives would be saved from diarrhoeal disease deaths with Universal Tap Water coverage.
“Jal Jeevan Mission was envisioned to ensure that every Indian has access to clean and safe water, which is a crucial foundation for public health. We will continue to strengthen this Mission and boost our healthcare system, ” the Prime Minister said.
According to Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, “We are witnessing the role of safe drinking water in saving lives, empowering women and girls, and contributing to ease of living”.
The groundbreaking report of WHO has highlighted the substantial benefits of the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ program in India. “No programme has this kind of direct impact on improving the lives of individuals and families physically, mentally, and financially”, Dr. Paul stressed, adding how, “A new connection is being added every second and transforming public health in India today.”
The report estimates that ensuring safely managed drinking water for all households in the country could avert nearly 400,000 deaths caused by diarrheal diseases and prevent approximately 14 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) related to these diseases. This achievement alone would result in estimated cost savings of up to $101 billion. The analysis focuses on diarrhoeal diseases as it accounts for the majority of WASH-attributable disease burden.
Smt Vini Mahajan, Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, has pointed out that “there has been an increase in rural tap water connections from 16.64% in 2019 to 62.84% in a span of 41 months.” Emphasizing on the speed of the mission, Smt. Mahajan asserted that in 2023 so far, on average, one tap connection has been provided every second.
She further added, “It is heartening to note that the mission’s approved cost of INR 3,600 billion (US $ 43,62 billion) stands recovered twice over due to 13.8 million DALYs averted valued at US$ $ 100.8 billion.”
She also said that “investing in water and sanitation results in many benefits, including economic, environmental, quality of life, and health. Safe water addresses both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Geogenic contaminants like Arsenic, Fluoride, heavy metals, etc. have debilitating effect on individuals reducing their productivity. The Government of India’s investment in Jal Jeevan Mission has a significant multiplier effect on health as has been brought out by this study”.
The ‘Har Ghar Jal’ report focuses on diarrheal diseases as they contribute significantly to the overall disease burden related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues. The analysis underscores the urgent need to address these diseases and the potential for substantial gains in public health and economic well-being.
Prior to 2019, the situation of water supply in rural areas was challenging. The report reveals that in 2018, 36% of India’s total population, including 44% of the rural population, lacked access to improved drinking-water sources on their premises. The direct consumption of unsafe drinking water had severe health and societal consequences. The analysis indicates that in 2019, unsafe drinking water, along with inadequate sanitation and hygiene, contributed to 1.4 million deaths and 74 million DALYs globally.
The World Health Organization (WHO) monitors various Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators, including the proportion of the population using safely managed drinking water services (Indicator 6.1.1) and mortality related to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene (Indicator 3.9.2). WHO has developed methods and tools to estimate the health gains associated with improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene, particularly in reducing diarrheal diseases and other related health outcomes.
The report emphasizes the tremendous time and effort saved for women and girls through the provision of tap water. In 2018, women in India spent an average of 45.5 minutes daily collecting water to meet household needs. Overall, households without on-premises water spent a staggering 66.6 million hours each day collecting water, with the majority (55.8 million hours) occurring in rural areas. Universal coverage through tap water provision will result in substantial savings by eliminating the need for daily water collection efforts.
It may be noted that the “Har Ghar Jal Programme”, implemented by the Jal Jeevan Mission under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, was announced by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on August 15, 2019. The program aims to provide every rural household with affordable and regular access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water through taps. The program’s components align with the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (JMP) to monitor progress on SDG 6.1 for safely managed drinking water services.
Incidentally, the Union Minister For Jal Shakti, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had released on June 1 the report on progress under the Jal Jeevan Mission: Swachh Jal se Suraksha (SJSS) Campaign which was organised from 2nd October, 2022 to 31st March, 2023 to impress upon the States/ UTs to make concerted efforts towards taking up water quality monitoring and surveillance activities as ‘Supply of Safe Water’ has been one of the key considerations under JJM.
Under the campaign, several activities had been taken up including Testing of PWS sources in all villages for chemical parameters and bacteriological parameters (post monsoon); Water quality testing at household level in villages; Water quality testing in Schools and Anganwadi Centres; Remedial action taken for contaminated samples; and Training of women for water quality testing using FTK/ H2S vials at village level.
As a result of concerted efforts made by States/ UTs for water quality monitoring and surveillance during campaign period and progress reported on WQMIS portal, the activity-wise overall progress is as under:
Water quality testing has been reported in 5.39 lakh (89.69 %) villages for chemicals and in 4.47 lakh (74.46 %) villages for bacteriological contamination (post monsoon).
Drinking water samples were tested in 6.58 lakh (67.63 %) schools and 7.16 lakh (67.43 %) anganwadi centres.
21.80 lakh women have been trained from 4.59 lakh (76.41 %) villages for water quality testing using Field Testing Kits (FTKs).
Remedial action has been taken for 90.34% of contaminated samples reported.
Performance of states/UTs was also measured during the Campaign. The states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh emerged as the best performing states during the Campaign.