New Delhi: After undertaking massive project to connect every household with tap water supply, the Central Government is now contemplating training a group of five woman in each village to carry out chemical testing of water being supplied to homes.
Speaking at a programme organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Jal Shakti Ministry, Government of India, Vini Mahajan said that the Government has set up about 2,000 local labs across the country to test and judge the quality of water.
“There is a proposal to train five women in every village in using field testing kits. There is also a proposal to set up ‘source finding committees’ whose task will be to assess the condition of the sources that are supplying water,” added Mahajan.
She further said: “The Indian government is working with partners – the civil society, local bodies, etc – to work together towards ensuring sustainable management of the resource. There is now an understanding of what is needed on the ground, and the government is acting on it. There is a deliberate emphasis on involving local and village communities in the effort.”
Underlining the impact of two major initiatives of the Central Government, ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ and the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’, Sunita Narain, director general of CSE, said that both are the ‘next generation reforms’ instituted by the country in water and sanitation.
“One of their objectives has been to ensure ‘functional’ tap water supply across the country. This is a significant aim, because it is an acknowledgement of the fact that water and sanitation management is not just about putting infrastructure like pipelines in place; it is about making the whole system sustainable. The question we need to ask ourselves is how successful have we been in meeting this objective that we have set for ourselves,” said Narain.
She was speaking a national seminar organised by CSE to discuss some best practices from rural India in water, grey water and faecal sludge management. CSE’s latest publication on the subject, a compendium of case studies titled Big Change is Possible, was released on the occasion. This seminar organized on August 17 in the national capital.
The compendium records and celebrates the stories of over 60 villages and peri-urban locations from across India which offer successful case studies of systems that have worked – of ensuring sustainable supply of drinking water, grey water management, and faecal sludge treatment and management at the village level. CSE researchers travelled to 75 villages in 30 districts of the country to assess the big changes on the ground.
From Sikkim, the book brings forth successful cases of rejuvenation and protection of springs for ensuring sustainable drinking water supply. Stories from coastal plains – Odisha and Andhra Pradesh – talk about ‘conjunctive’ use of groundwater and surface water. From Maharashtra come examples of greywater management, while Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh offer replicable case studies of treating and managing faecal sludge.
In her presentation, Narain said: “When we pollute water, we waste it. This is also why water supply has to be linked to the system of sanitation and wastewater generation. The fact is the toilet-building programme is incomplete unless the wastewater—the faecal sludge that is contained in the receptacle of the single- or double-pit or unlined, linked or honeycomb individual toilet—is safely disposed of. It must be treated so that it can be reused without polluting water or land.”
According to Sushmita Sengupta, senior programme manager, Rural Water-Waste Management, CSE: “This seminar and book release, which was attended by stakeholders from across the country, has brought out the need for strengthening legal and institutional structures for effective implementation, and creation of a menu of technologies for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and treatment of greywater and faecal sludge.”
Putting in the last word, Narain said: “Sustainability requires natural resources to be managed not through fractured bureaucracies but through decentralised systems of local community control. This is where the next big evolution in practice has to be—this is the experiment that will be the real game-changer.”