Nearly half the schools and 30% of the villages in Jammu and Kashmir — known for its glaciers, fresh water lakes and streams — are relying on unsafe drinking water, a study has revealed.
The study conducted by the national level monitoring agency, under the Union rural development ministry, has also found that nearly two-thirds of the villagers do not get sufficient potable water in their homes.
The monitoring agency's officials covered 120 villages, 390 schools and 376 anganwadi centres in 12 of the state’s 22 districts in April-May last year for assessment of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP).
The study found regular water tests were not conducted in any of the villages assessed. “Water treatment facilities exist in only 5% villages visited by the NLM,” the report stated, while questioning the logic of implementing agencies to rely on untreated water from rivers and lakes for supplying drinking water.
The agency said the NRDWP aimed at universal access of rural population to safe and sustainable drinking water facilities and not “a mere coverage of habitations”.
Initiated in 2009, the NRDWP is a revised version of the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme of 1972–73 to support states and union territories with financial and technical assistance in implementing drinking water supply schemes.
State public health engineering minister Sham Lal Sharma on Wednesday admitted the widespread reliance on unsafe drinking water was worrisome. “It is a fact that our schools and villages don’t have access to safe drinking water. There is a large chunk of schools and villages where water connectivity has not reached.”
“Our target is to ensure all villages get quality water supply,” he said. Jammu and Kashmir spreads across 1,01,500 sq km, of which water bodies and wetlands cover 3,533 sq km.