“We are determined to complete Jal Jeevan’s mission by the end of 2024”

NEW DELHI : The commodity super cycle has impacted the rollout of the government’s flagship program to connect every household to tap water, the Jal Jeevan Mission. As the marquee project, which is to be completed by 2024, is key to helping BJP win a third consecutive victory in Lok Sabha polls, a committee has been formed to find a solution to restart the work. stalled, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh said. Shekhawat said in an interview. Edited excerpts:

India has experienced a severe heat wave. In terms of shortage of drinking water, how serious is the situation?

We have witnessed improvements with the Jal Jeevan mission. Drinking water coverage at the household level improved from 16% to 49%. In addition, 33% of new households have started receiving water, which has helped relieve some pressure. Tap connections under this assignment are referred to as Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC). Functionality means quality water, and quantity means at least 55 liters of water per day per person with regularity. If all three metrics are met, the connection will be considered functional. Thanks to this program, we are on the verge of achieving 100% water connections in areas such as Bundelkhand, whose 11 districts were once extremely water-scarce. Similarly, in drought-prone areas of Telangana, challenges have been met. States like Bihar now have more than 95% of households with running water from the tap. The program is ongoing and we are determined to complete the project by the end of 2024.

What are the challenges?

Commodity price inflation is a huge hurdle as it has affected bidding and ultimately labor. Rising steel and plastic prices have affected pipe costs, which were previously available at 50% of current costs. Due to rising prices, previously awarded contracts have become unviable for dealers. We have called a meeting to resolve this issue. While new tenders were launched, but projects with old tenders stopped, which affected the speed at which the project was moving forward. We have built a committee to solve these problems under the chairmanship of the secretary, Jal Shakti and Water Resources. We have also instituted a Technical Committee where along with the Secretary we have additional State Secretaries, Chiefs of Engineering and Dealers.

Which are the best performing states?

The first state to achieve 100% status was Goa, followed by Telangana and Haryana. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab are doing exceptionally well. There are 12 states moving towards 100% status.

Three states and three union territories have achieved 100% status. Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim exceed the 90% mark. Maharashtra, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir are between 60-70%.

Which states are lagging behind?

Work in Uttar Pradesh was delayed as we were stuck in resolution areas like Bundelkhand. Works for the project started around 2021. We are aiming to have 80 lakh of tap water connection in UP by the end of 2022. But the most unfortunate state is Rajasthan. We started with 12% water connections but only managed to reach 23-24%. Progress in the state has been slower compared to other states.

What other states are lagging besides UP?

West Bengal, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. It is really critical states that worry us.

JJM being a 50 billion dollar project, will the cost of the project increase?

Not at the moment as current tenders are based on current costs and I don’t think this will have a major impact on a project like Jal Jeevan. Rising prices are a short-term phenomenon. Even though it has an impact, the government is committed to the project. Our current budget allocation is Rs3,60,000 crore and we also have significant savings. This will therefore not affect the speed and objectives of the mission.

Where is the Interconnection of Rivers program?

All statutory clearances for Ken-Betwa have been completed. There are two stages for the clearing of forests and wildlife, including the first stage that we have carried out. For the second stage, the money that we had to give to the MoEF has been deposited. We will launch the tender procedure as soon as we have obtained the authorizations.

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