A ZOOM WEBINAR ON ‘DRINKING WATER AND SANITATION: FOR ALL’ ORGANISED BY MCCI

Debasish Chattopadhyay
Kolkata: India receives mean annual precipitation of about 3880 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM). After evaporation and other factors, the utilizable water available is limited to 1122 BCM per annum, comprising of 690 BCM of surface water and 432 BCM of ground water. Out of this, the water potential utilized is around 699 BCM, comprising of 450 BCM of surface water and 249 BCM of groundwater, as per Reports by Central Water Commission. Total requirement of the country for different uses of water 2025 and 2050 has been projected at 843 BCM and 1180 BCM respectively for 2025 and 2050, said Rishabh Kothari, President, Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) on December 22.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Central Government is keen to achieve the target of providing safe drinking water to all by 2024. The Jal Jeevan Mission launched on August 15, 2019 is a landmark initiative and will lead to increase in the standard of living of rural population of India by way of house connection of water supply.
There has been too much dependence on ground water, which is depleting. The Central Government focus on surface water source for water supply schemes is sincerely appreciated since it is a sustainable model and will lead to less exploitation of ground water sources. This will also help in controlling geological imbalances.
89% of the water available in the country is used by agriculture sector. Saving about 5~10% of the water used by agriculture can help to meet drinking water requirement of the country for next 50 years.
Excess fluoride in India may be affecting tens of millions of people across 19 states, while equally worryingly, excess arsenic may affect up to 15 million people in West Bengal, according to the World Health Organization. Arsenic problem in 7 districts of the state had been the most wide spread in the world, excepting Bangladesh.
There should be interventions in the following areas :
• More stress on surface water, less use of ground water.
• Water conservation should go hand in hand with rainwater harvesting
• Reuse of used water through water purification activities
• Ensure supply of non-contaminated water to control water borne diseases
• Arsenic free water for drinking purposes
Regarding water treatment projects, prices of inputs such as PVC & HDPE pipes have skyrocketed in the past 3-4 months, to the extent of 35~40%. Prices for Cement / TMT Bars also have risen exponentially. It has become unviable to execute the projects. The price rise seems to be artificial and needs to be investigated. We would request the Department to kindly look into this and address the issue.
Regarding sanitation, India had one of the highest open defecation rates in the world, a problem that comes with severe public health consequences including high levels of child malnutrition. The Swachh Bharat Mission, launched on October 2, 2014 had targeted to ensure an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2019.
The success rate for urban ODF was quite impressive, however, a survey by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in November 2019, claimed that about 28.7% of rural households across India still lacked access to any form of latrines. Moreover, 3.5% of those who have access to latrines, don’t use it.
On this occasion Upendra Prasad Singh, Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India said that India is a water stressed country in the sense that it has 18 p.c. of the global population but water availability is 4%. Per capita water availability has come down. India has wide variation in rainfall and most rainfall takes place in the monsoon season. Climate change has had an impact and the distribution of rainfall has been affected with the number of rainy days coming down.
India’s water resources have not changed but its population has grown 4x to 5x in the last several decades. The per capita water availability is important. 1,000 mm of rainfall means that India should not be water stressed. India is an inefficient user of water. The water availability per person is enough.
Ground water and surface water are the two main sources of water. 50% of industrial water requirement is met by ground water.
In many parts of India, water seeping into aquifers is less than the usage of ground water. We need to better manage ground water and use more surface water. India has focused mostly on supply side management and it has not paid adequate attention to demand side management. Just because the population of the country is growing does not mean that that water usage will increase. The water requirement in USA has not increased and Denmark has reduced water usage through efficiency.
The Prime minister announced Jal Jeevan Mission. 3.22 crore households had a tap connection which has increased to 6 crore out of 19 crore rural households. Source sustainability is important for functional tap connection. The Government is working to provide tap water to every household by 2024.
The quality of water is important and quality problems include arsenic, nitrates, fluoride and iron.
The Prime minister said in 2014 that India would become Open Defecation Free and the country has achieved this status. Swachh Bharat Mission Phase 2 has started with focus on sustainability, solid waste management and liquid waste management. The goal is that no one should be left behind and 40 lakh latrines have been recently constructed. The Government is constructing many Community Sanitary Complexes.

Later Sanjib Kumar Kothari, Chairman, Council on MSME, MCCI offered a hearty Vote of Thanks.