Modi government plans to invest 3,60,000 crore rupees in next five years under the Jal Jeevan mission. Under the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ initiative, the government aims to provide 55 litres of clean drinking water per person by 2024. ‘Har Ghar Jal’ is a great initiative because as of today, only 18.24 percent (32.57 million out of 178.54 million) households have access to piped water. The move shall improve the lives of millions in the country.
Water conservation and ‘Har Ghar Jal’ was the highlight of the Budget speech by newly appointed finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In her Budget speech, she said, “Ensuring India’s water security and providing access to safe drinking water to all Indians is a priority. A major step in this direction has been the constitution of Jal Shakti Ministry.”
The Modi government has constituted a new ministry named Ministry of Jal Shakti to look after water-related issues. The newly created ministry would look after the work of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The scarcity issues in this regard earlier to came under the ambit of 7-8 ministries and therefore, any solution to the prevailing issues would usually get stuck in ministerial wars. The ambitious Har Ghar Jal initiative requires a separate ministry to realise its goals.
India receives high rainfall in comparison to other countries like Israel, South Korea and others, but water management is overall very poor in India. However, countries like Israel which receive very little rainfall, never face water scarcity thanks to their superb water management techniques. Only 4 percent of water is used for drinking purpose while 80 percent of the water is used in agriculture. The water consumption in the country is largely unregulated and therefore, very inefficient. The Modi government has taken cognisance of the problem and has set up a new Jal Shakti ministry. “The setting up of a separate ministry will give water conservation measures the much-needed impetus it deserves,” said an official.
The country is facing a very serious water crisis and the problem is that concern around the matter seems very limited. According to the NITI Aayog, India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. “Currently, 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.” It is estimated the crisis is going to get worse by 2030 when India’s demand is projected to be twice the available supply. It is now or never for the Har Ghar Jal initiative to take off in order to avert a full-blown crisis in the future.
As per estimation by NITI Aayog, the country would bear a 6 per cent loss in GDP by 2020 due to water-related issues, if the crisis is not dealt with on a priority basis. As per the report, 21 Indian cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will face a shortage of groundwater by 2020 and it will impact living of around 10 crore people.
In 2019 general elections manifesto, BJP promised that if elected to power, the Modi government would launch ‘Jal Jivan Mission’ to ensure clean piped water to every household by 2024. “Water is a critical resource but its management is spread across various departments, even at the Central level. We will form a new Ministry of Water unifying the water management functions to approach the issue of water management holistically and ensure better coordination of efforts,” read the BJP’s vision document.
The setting up of separate ministry and plan to spend more than 3 lakh crore rupees by 2024 which will provide a massive impetus to water availability and conservation in India, ensures that the government is very serious to deliver on its manifesto promise. PM Modi’s personal involvement in the project would ensure that the project is completed in mission mode and Har Ghar Jal turns into a reality by 2024.