Jal Jeevan Mission

Jal Jeevan Mission is a people’s movement: Bharat Lal, Additional Secretary and Mission Director

The Jal Jeevan Mission is a noble initiative by the Government of India that was initiated on 15 August 2019 with a vision to take drinking water to every rural household in India. What people don’t realise is that the mission is not just limited to administering taps in every household, and there is also a huge technology play that also comes into the picture. Furthermore, modern technologies like IoT and data analytics are being applied every single day in the mission to enhance the productivity of operations. Recently, Bharat Lal, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, Jal Jeevan Mission, spoke to Dataquest and explained every single aspect of the mission in detail. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

DQ: Kindly give us an outline of the mission

Bharat Lal: As you know, the Jal Jeevan Mission mission was announced by the honorable prime minister on 15th august 2019 to ensure the provision of clean tap water to every rural home, and in India, there are roughly 19 crore 20 lakh households or 192 million households plus schools,  anganwadi centers , and tribal residential schools among others. So roughly, there are 20 crore or 200 million points where basically we have to ensure piped water and that too in adequate quantity, of prescribed quality, on regular basis on a long-term basis and most importantly with adequate pressure so that a citizen of India gets clean tap water. 

Please also understand that, under the one mission, the idea is that the village community is enlightened and educated to be able to operate, maintain, and manage their own water supply system. They also develop various aspects of water management like how to manage drinking water sources, how to strengthen them, and how to augment them so that supply remains good. Also, when you start supplying clean tap water in every home, there will be greywater that is coming from the kitchen or washroom. This greywater has to be collected, treated, and reused because it is a resource, and if you leave it as it is there is a possibility that it might be a health hazard. 

Furthermore, financial sustainability – when you are putting such a huge system in the whole country, in every village for every household and pumping, chlorination of water, and filtration has to take place – it costs something. So people have to understand and appreciate that when such as modern system is being applied, sustainability of finances, resources, and system has to be taken care of. Lastly, this is also an opportunity for us to ensure that whatever water we get should be clean and portable so that we are not prone to water-borne diseases. This program is being implemented in partnership with the state governments and NGOs. 

For five years, a budgetary provision of 3.6 lakh crore or roughly 51 billion US dollars has been announced. In addition to that, the Government of India, on the recommendation of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, has agreed to give sixty percent of the fund to the panchayats, which are the rural local bodies for operation maintenance and management of the water supply system and improve sanitation. 

So, 1.42 lakh crore will be given in 5 years to Panchayats for this purpose. At the end of the day, they have to work as a small public utility at the village level. We are also working towards making every village person aware, empowered, and educated on water sanitation and hygiene enlightened. We want them to be able to manage their resources, supply and greywater in a very sustainable manner. I’m sure that once clean tap water is available at home, the quality of life of people living in the village will certainly improve, women will have more time, girls will have more time at their disposal to pursue education, and overall their economic conditions will improve. 

DQ: The Jal Jeevan Mission is not just limited to the Government of India is a message that is being conveyed by the Central Government. How can Indian citizens be a part of this mission?

Bharat Lal: The Jal Jeevan Mission is basically about building partnerships with the state government, panchayats, NGOs, civil society, and organisations. The mission aims at changing lives, so basically, we are trying to make it a people’s movement. The mission is not just limited to the Government of India, and all Indian citizens should be a part of this mission. The Prime Minister, while announcing the mission, said that we have to make it a Jan Andolan. The idea is that at the end of the day, water should become everybody’s business, and not only the government’s business. 

There are many organisations, NGOs, trusts, foundations, civil societies, and even agencies that are working in the field of water. So the mission is giving them an opportunity to join hands work towards a common purpose. We also have the provision to engage with them as sector partners. There are roughly 193 such institutions that are very reputed like UNICEF, Tata Trust, and others who work as sector partners who work with us to work towards the common goal to achieve water security on the ground. 

We have roughly more than 13 thousand such institutions working in different parts of the country and they have joined the Jal Jeevan Mission and work as implementation support agencies. Similarly, in the country, we have selected roughly 129 knowledge centers that have knowledge in various fields such as administration, communication, water engineering, sanitation, or community mobilization. 

They are basically educational or technical institutions we have engaged with as key resource centers. They are joining hands with us to impart training. We are also forming village water and sanitation committees in villages, which is essentially a 15 member committee where more than 50 percent are women and suitable representation to the weaker section of the society has also been given. This body, which is the subcommittee of the gram panchayat, is responsible for planning, implementation, and operation maintenance of village water supply, infrastructure, sanitation, and greywater management.

DQ: How are technologies like data analytics and IoT being used in the Jal Jeevan Mission? And what kind of opportunities does the mission present for startups and industries?

Bharat Lal: India is known as an IT superpower, and the idea is that all this knowledge and technology should be used in our day-to-day lives as well as in the water supply sector which is such a huge program being implemented at the cost of 51 billion dollars or

3.60 lakh crore in five years. Before 15 August 2019, only 3.23 crore households had tap water connections, which comes to around 17 percent of the population. So it means that the remaining 83 percent or five times that work has to be done in five years. So when you have to work on such a large scale, it means there has to be speed, which means using technology in planning, implementation, monitoring, and capacity building is inevitable. 

Physically monitoring six lakh four thousand villages is not possible. So what we have done is that we have developed a database of the last 20 years wherein any village, whatever investment has been made on water supply is available with us with the census and with Aadhaar, we have the population details in every village. We have brought all this data in one place and we also have the geo-morphological data on the kind of water availability. Based on all these things we have a tool related to data analytics and predictive data analytics that has been used during planning so that whatever infrastructure has been created can be retrofitted to make it JJM compliant. Data analytics is being used at every stage before approval. 

The second stage is that we have put a JJM dashboard that is available in the public domain. This dashboard has detailed information about the whole country, state, district, and at the village level including what kind of infrastructure is being used, what kind of investment has been made and who are the people who have got the connection. Information on water supply facilities and water quality testing is also available on this dashboard. So, at the end of the day , what we are trying to do is to ensure transparency and accountability using technology. The mission is also working on procuring water quality testing devices so that citizens themselves can test the quality of water that is being supplied to their homes, and upload the results on the Water Quality Management Information System (WQIMS) website which has been developed in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

We are also developing water quality testing devices as if in the current day citizens can test their blood glucose levels and blood pressure at home they should also be able to test the quality of water being supplied to them. We are developing water quality testing devices where basically you pour in water in this instrument and you will get the reading. We have started a challenge where basically sensor devices are being developed in the whole ecosystem so that in six lakh villages we should be able to monitor and measure water supply in terms of quantity, quality, and regularity and also take remedial action. Sensor-based devices have been developed and installed in more than 111 villages. Pilots are underway where basically we can collect data online in real-time about quantity, quality, and water table.

Also, in water treatment there is chlorination. If you put automated chlorination system, whenever supply is there, chlorination takes place in appropriate amounts so there is hardly any chance of biological contamination or water-borne diseases. We are also using technology to eat arsenic, fluoride, iron, and nitrate. This kind of sensor-based IoT pilot will be used in the next three years in every village so there is a huge opportunity for startups and industries. We aim at giving maximum opportunities to youth from all categories starting from mason, plumber, electrician, and pump operator to high tech startups developing these kinds of devices and systems. So Jal Jeevan Mission is a futuristic mission to ensure clean tap water for the next 30 to 40 years. 

DQ: Taking drinking water to 20 crore households seems like a mammoth task but so was administering one billion vaccination doses. You were also an integral part of the vaccination drive in India. What are the learnings that you took from the drive which can be applied to the Jal Jeevan Mission?

Bharat Lal: The country has delivered 100 crore or 1 billion doses to its people, and every Indian is today proud of this fact. Nowhere in the world, this kind of work has been done in less than nine months. Today, we are in a position to vaccinate roughly one crore people. Similarly, in the Jal Jeevan Mission roughly 16 crore households need to be given tap water connection in five years. So, nearly 3.2 crore every year needs to be given tap water.

Before 15th August 2019, in the last 30 and 50 years, 3.23 crore households we are given connection. Tap water connection is the culmination of the whole process which includes, designing, data collection, planning, approval, tendering, execution and commissioning. Now draw similarly with vaccine administration and COVID management – you have to develop the vaccine, manufacture it, take approvals and maintain the whole supply chain has to be ensured. We use the same kind of system in water supply management. For example, in COVID-19 we have a system where the samples of patients have to be tested. 

The laboratory has to be located, samples have to be collected, the report is then sent through a digital form, which also goes to the state government or local authorities for remedial action. The same process is being applied for drinking water that if you have some doubt about the quality of your water, you can locate the nearby laboratory, give the water sample and get your report in the digital form on your phone which will also go to state authorities for remedial action. Similarly, we are also working on training people in villages to test the water through field testing kits and they upload the data. We have learned a lot from the vaccination drive, and we in fact have started a bit early in the Jal Jeevan Mission on how to work with speed and on the scale. 

Also, anybody and everybody who is getting tap water connections can be authenticated and verified through their Aadhaar number. So I think this governance model where we work with speed and scale and ensure heavy use of technology to make sure there is transparency, accountability and efficiency in the process.

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