NCR Times, New Delhi. JalJeevan Mission and the Swachh Bharat Mission are the ‘next generation reforms’ instituted by the country in water and sanitation. One of their objectives has been to ensure ‘functional’tap water supply across the country. This is a significant aim, because it is an acknowledgement of the fact that water and sanitation management is not just about putting infrastructure like pipelines in place; it is about making the whole system sustainable. The question we need to ask ourselves is how successful have we been in meeting this objective that we have set for ourselves,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) here today.
She was speaking at a national seminar organised by CSE to discuss some best practices from rural India in water, greywater and faecal sludge management. CSE’s latest publication on the subject, a compendium of case studies titled Big Change is Possible, was released on the occasion.
The compendium records and celebrates the stories of over 60 villages and peri-urban locations from across India which offer successful case studies of systems that have worked – of ensuring sustainable supply of drinking water, greywater management, and faecal sludge treatment and management at the village level. CSE researchers travelled to 75 villages in 30 districts of the country to assess the big changes on the ground.
From Sikkim, the book brings forth successful cases of rejuvenation and protection of springs for ensuring sustainable drinking water supply. Stories from coastal plains – Odisha and Andhra Pradesh – talk about ‘conjunctive’ use of groundwater and surface water. From Maharashtra come examples of greywater management, while Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh offer replicable case studies of treating and managing faecal sludge.
Officially releasing the compendium, Vini Mahajan, secretary, department of drinking water and sanitation, Jal Shakti ministry, Government of India, echoed Narain’s sentiments and said: “The Indian government is working with partners – the civil society, local bodies, etc – to work together towards ensuring sustainable management of the resource. There is now an understanding of what is needed on the ground, and the government is acting on it. There is a deliberate emphasis on involving local and village communities in the effort.”
Elaborating on some of the actions, Mahajan added: “The government has set up 2,000 local labs across the country to test and judge the quality of water. There is a proposal to train five women in every village in using field testing kits. There is also a proposal to set up ‘source finding committees’ whose task will be to assess the condition of the sources that are supplying water.”
In her presentation, Narain said: “When we pollute water, we waste it. This is also why water supply has to be linked to the system of sanitation and wastewater generation. The fact is the toilet-building programme is incomplete unless the wastewater—the faecal sludge that is contained in the receptacle of the single- or double-pit or unlined, linked or honeycomb individual toilet—is safely disposed of. It must be treated so that it can be reused without polluting water or land.”
According to Sushmita Sengupta, senior programme manager, Rural Water-Waste Management, CSE: “This seminar and book release, which was attended by stakeholders from across the country, has brought out the need for strengthening legal and institutional structures for effective implementation, and creation of a menu of technologies for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and treatment of greywater and faecal sludge.”
Putting in the last word, Narain said: “Sustainability requires natural resources to be managed not through fractured bureaucracies but through decentralised systems of local community control. This is where the next big evolution in practice has to be—this is the experiment that will be the real game-changer.”