NEW DELHI: Contamination of groundwater with fluoride, arsenic and other heavy metals is posing a major challenge to centre’s ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission aimed at providing potable water through tap to every rural household by 2024.
An assessment by the department found that as many as 56,788 rural households in 18 states have water contaminated with fluoride, arsenic, iron, salinity, nitrate and heavy metals. West Bengal, Rajasthan and Assam have the highest number of rural households with contaminated water.
The department in its submission before the parliamentary standing committee on water resources has accepted that “the presence of contaminants in groundwater” is one of the major challenges to achieving the targets of the Jal Jeevan Mission.
Providing tap water to every rural household is a key focus area for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government by 2024 when it will seek its third term. Keeping in mind, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Jal Jeevan Mission through Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC).
Other challenges that need attention to achieve targets include lack of in-village infrastructure, depleting groundwater resources, lack of assured water sources, climate change leading to scanty rainfall, lack of capacity of local communities and poor operation and maintenance.
Interestingly, the standing committee expressed doubts about the figure of 56,788 rural habitations affected by water quality.
“The committee is of the view that the water quality issues may not be reflective of gravity of the situation on the ground. The department should conduct an independent technical survey in a time-bound manner to better assess the situation and adopt an appropriate measure to deal with the problem,” the committee recommended.
To address the problem of contamination of drinking water, the Department had launched the National Water Quality Sub-Mission on March 22, 2017, to provide safe drinking water to 25,544 Arsenic/Flouride affected rural households in the country.
Out of these, 11,884 habitations have been covered and 4,100 habitations are found quality improved.