Delhi,2 July:Provision of safe drinking water is the basic necessity. Rural drinking water supply is a State subject and has been included in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution among the subjects that may be entrusted to Panchayats by the States.
Considering the magnitude of the problem, the Government of India supplements the efforts of the State Governments by providing financial assistance under Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) to address the problems of poor availability, water quality and sustainability of drinking water sources and systems.
Reforms in the rural drinking water sector were introduced in 1999 and Sector Reform Pilot projects were launched in 67 districts across the country. These reforms were intended to be implemented during the 9th Five-Year Plan and with the experience gained thereon, the reform initiatives were to be firmed up and scaled up during the 10th Five-Year Plan period for adopting the demand responsive strategy and also for institutionalizing community participation for the sustainability of drinking water supply systems and sources in rural areas. The sector reforms in rural drinking water supply is based on empowerment of village community to ensure their full participation in the project through a decision making role in the choice of the drinking water scheme, planning, design, implementation, control of finances, management arrangements including full ownership of drinking water assets including its operation and maintenance. The community has to share partial capital cost either in cash or kind or both and 100% responsibility of operation and maintenance (O&M). An integrated service delivery mechanism is also promoted which includes taking up conservation measures through rainwater harvesting and ground water recharge systems for sustainable drinking water supply.
In 2002, the reform initiatives in the rural drinking water sector were scaled up throughout the country in the form of Swajaldhara. Under Swajaldhara, it is envisaged that Village Panchayat (GP) and/ or its sub-committee in the form of Village Water & Sanitation Committees (VWSCs) or Pani Samiti to plan, design, implement and manage their own drinking water supply programme along with collating other basic necessities like village cleanliness and sanitation thereby focusing on better health ad hygiene of the rural communities.
The Government of India started Bharat Nirman in the year 2005-06 to create rural infrastructure under which, rural drinking water is one of the six components. During the Bharat Nirman period, 55,067 un-covered and about 3.31 lakh slipped-back habitations are to be covered and 2.17 lakh quality-affected habitations are to be addressed. Under Bharat Nirman-rural water supply in the first three years, impressive achievements have been made. In 2005-06, against the target of 56,270 habitations to be covered, 97,215 habitations have been covered. In 2006-07, against the target to cover 73,120 habitations, 1,07,350 habitations have been covered. In tune with the progress in first two years of Bharat Nirman, during 2007-08, 1.55 lakh habitations were planned to be covered and addressed for water quality problem against which 1.81 lakh habitations have been covered/ addressed.
With the success of Bharat Nirman, it is equally important that sustainability is achieved so that investment and efforts yield the desired results. In the rural drinking water supply sector, slippage i.e. once fully covered habitation falls back owing to problem in terms of source and or systems becoming defunct, deterioration of water quality and multiple reasons.
To address this issue, Minister for Rural Development, Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has given a big push to decentralized, demand-driven, community-managed rural water supply programme, wherein rural community have a decisive role in planning, approval, implementation, management, operation and maintenance of water supply systems in their own villages. In this direction, Minister, Rural Development has been tirelessly advocating the need for empowering communities to address the issues relating to drinking water availability, quality and sustainability to achieve long-term drinking water security.
During the Conference of State Secretaries, in-charge of drinking water supply and sanitation, held on 13-14 May, 2008, the necessity of flexibility in the guidelines for rural water supply was iterated by many States; to provide leverage to States to address the aim of coverage, quality aspects and sustainability of the water supply schemes. Many a times, Members of Parliament have also been demanding for an increased allocation for Swajaldhara and thereby enabling the involvement of rural communities in the planning, implementation, management, operation and management of rural water supply schemes in their own villages.
In order to furthermore decentralize the management of the water supply, the Swajaldhara programme has been boosted with the decision of the Department of Drinking Water Supply. During 2008-09, under ARWSP budgetary provision of Rs. 7,300 crore has been made. Since 2008-09, States can utilize upto 20% of their allocation under Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) for taking up rural water supply schemes/ projects on Swajaldhara principles. In this programme, funds will reach to Gram Panchayat/ Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) or Pani Samiti and they can plan, implement, manage, operate and maintain their own water supply systems of their choice. This will be a great opportunity for people living in remote villages to have access and control over funds for drinking water. Under this component, 90% cost of the scheme will be borne by the Government of India and the remaining 10% will be the share of the local community/ user group (s) as prescribed under the Swajaldhara guidelines in the form of cash, kind and or labour. Under Swajaldhara, adequate funds are available for capacity building of these Gram Panchayats, VWSCs and Pani Samitis and also to meet the administrative expenditure. The 12th Finance Commission has allocated Rs. 20,000 crore for PRIs to be provided in five years (2005-06 to 2009-10). The fund is primarily meant for operation and maintenance of water supply and sanitations systems in the villages. This will help the village community to construct water supply schemes of their own choice and utilize the funds made available as grants under 12th Finance Commission for PRIs.