The central government allotted a Rs 6,998.97 crore grant to West Bengal (WB) under Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) for the year 2021-22, to provide each household with an assured tap water supply on a regular and long-term basis. For the year 2019-20, the central allocation was Rs 995.33 crore, which increased to Rs 1,614.18 crore in 2020-21.
During the announcement of Jal Jeevan Mission, out of 163.25 lakh rural households in West Bengal, tap water supply was limited to just 2,14 lakh rural homes, which is nearly 1%. In the previous 21 months, in the state, 14 lakh houses have been provided with a tap water supply. Thus, coverage has grown by 8.58% to 9.90% against 39% of the national average.
In 41,357 villages and out of 1.63 crore rural households, around 1.48 crore rural homes will receive piped water supply.
In 2020-21, West Bengal provided 12.48 lakh tap connections against a target of 55.58 lakh, but because of the slow work process and poor use of funds, the state was unable to draw the entire allocated amount.
Currently, the state government has planned to implement the JJM at a fast pace to provide water supply to 43.10 lakh rural households in 2020-21 and 52.74 lakh FHTCs in 2022-23 and 2023-24.
However, WB has to speed up the implementation by four-fold to accomplish the targets.
In a recently held conference, the National Jal Jeevan Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti evaluated the Annual Action Plans of the state and is helping to prepare a roadmap to make it a Har Ghar Jal state by 2024.
Being a part of the 100-days campaign launched on 2 October 2019, the state has begun making provision of piped water connections in schools and anganwadi centres. In 2020-21, against the target of 75,137 schools and 91,076 anganwadi centres, it provided tap water supply to 10,046 schools (13%) and 6,430 anganwadi centres (7%).
The supply of tap water connections in each day-care and learning and learning centres needs to be assured by the end of this year to facilitate improved sanitation, better health, and hygiene of the children.
In West Bengal, 1,251 villages have been affected by arsenic and fluoride contaminants in drinking water sources.
The state has been instructed to prioritise these villages and ensure that either piped water or community water purification plants (CWPPs) must be installed in these villages to provide Arsenic and Fluoride-free drinking water at the rate of 8 -10 litres per person each day for drinking and cooking purposes.
West Bengal has 220 water quality testing labs, and National Jal Jeevan Mission is pursuing with each state to update all labs and get them approved from NABL, and even permitted to the general public, so people can get their water samples tested at a nominal cost.
The state govt has reported that in the next few months, 138 water quality labs will get NABL approved. It is instructed to empower local people, especially women to test their water samples using Field Test Kits (FTKs) and bacteriological tests using Hydrogen Sulphide vials.
The PHED of the state is also preparing to conduct more quality tests at drinking water delivery points. It has also been advised to prioritise and fast track tap water provisions in SC/ST main villages, JE-AES affected districts and drought-prone areas to make a qualitative difference in the lives of people, particularly those belonging to poor sections of the society.
With an improved central allocation of Rs 6,998.97 crore, the outstanding balance of Rs 757.59 crore, and the 15th Finance Commission tied grants, availability of funds is not a problem for tap water supply to rural households. It is time for the state to work with the more speedy process, planning, operation, monitoring, and management to provide tap water connections to each rural home.