Jal Jeevan Mission: 12 Leh villages get tap water connection

The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) scheme aims to connect every rural household in the country with a functional tapped water connection by 2024. Over 120 million households in India lacked access to clean water near their homes, the highest in the world in absolute numbers, according to a UN Water report in 2014.
Workmen prepare for a helicopter sortie to ferry equipment to a remote village in Leh. (HT Photo)
Workmen prepare for a helicopter sortie to ferry equipment to a remote village in Leh. (HT Photo)
Published on Nov 12, 2021 11:18 PM IST
Copy Link

New Delhi: The town of Leh, perched in the northern Himalayas at an elevation of 11,562 feet, is unforgiving, despite being a tourist haven with soaring mountains, colourful monasteries, and eternal poplars. Much of the Ladakh region, where the town is located, remains snowbound. The winds are freezing. Cell phone connectivity is patchy.

But government engineers and contractors have managed to connect 12 of the region’s 60 villages with 24x7 piped water connection in the cold desert under the flagship Jal Jeevan Mission, defying odds that have often left Leh behind in terms of modern infrastructure.

The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) scheme aims to connect every rural household in the country with a functional tapped water connection by 2024. Over 120 million households in India lacked access to clean water near their homes, the highest in the world in absolute numbers, according to a UN Water report in 2014.

India has 189 million rural households, according to Census data, and the race to reach piped water to every household is on. As on November 10, nearly 84.7 million households have been provided with a functioning tapped water supply source. This is 44% of total rural households.

The expanding network of piped drinking water is critical for health. Poor quality water is the main cause of diseases such as diarrhoea, the third leading cause of childhood mortality in the country, according to researchers Subitha Lakshminarayanan and Ramakrishnan Jayalakshmy, who work at Puduchery’s Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research and Indira Gandhi Medical College, respectively.

Some regions such as Leh in the Union territory of Ladakh, stood out for their harsh terrain and geographical hurdles in the national programme to provided piped water.

Besides, the region witnesses heightened military watch because of a simmering border dispute with China.

In one such remote village called Dipling, ferrying men and equipment to locate a sustainable water source and lay the pipeline network was an arduous task as there was no motorable road, people involved in the project said.

“Air sorties were used to move labour, engineers and equipment to this village,” says Bharat Lal, the additional secretary in the ministry of Jal Shakti, which oversees the programme. Along with high density polyethylene pipes, high-tech gadgets to locate water sources were also transported through air.

Most villages lacked electricity, without which providing functional piped water supply is impossible since running motor equipment and monitoring sensors require power. Engineers in Leh built solar power units to solve the problem.

“Solar power units mean the piped water facilities in the region are zero-carbon infrastructure. This makes it totally green,” district magistrate Skrikant Suse said.

Villages along the Line of Actual Control along the India-China border are being covered on a priority, officials said.

Of Leh’s 24,767 households, 5,425 households now have tapped water.

The Union budget allotted 10,001 crore in 2019-20 for the national rural drinking water mission. In 2020-21, 11,500 crore was provided. The Union budget 2021-22 took this up to 50,000 crore for the mission.

Overall, experts say a key challenge for the programme is to maintain sustainability of water supply sources. In previous attempts to provide drinking water supply, villages connected with water sources fell back to “no-water” status after a few years due to non-availability of water.

Maintaining sustainability will require work on different aspects altogether. These include groundwater recharge, water conservation and, critically, cutting down the overuse of water in agriculture, which hogs 90% of available supply, mainly because farming isn’t efficient.

“India has to bring down its farm water use to optimal levels for greater sustainability of groundwater, the most important source of water for human consumption,” says Alok Nath, a former water specialist at the Indian Council for Agricultural Research.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, November 29, 2021