Centre asks Odisha to expedite implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission

Bhubaneswar, Jun 21 (PTI) Highlighting low utilisation of funds under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), the Centre has asked the Odisha government to ensure its expeditious implementation and said the central scheme could also help generate employment and boost the local economy.

The mission aims to improve the lives of rural people by providing safe drinking water to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTCs) by 2024. Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that Odisha should review the planning and implementation strategy of water supply schemes.

The Jal Shakti Ministry in a statement said that the Union minister's letter to expedite water supply through tap connections is well-timed, considering the prevailing situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said it is important that people do not crowd public stand-posts or public water sources. This is a time to instill behavioural changes in the masses to help them practice social distancing as well as expedite water supply works, the statement said.

The mission will also help locals and migrants in getting employment, and will boost the rural economy, it said On the pace of implementation of the scheme, Shekhawat in his letter mentioned that in 2019-2020, against a target of 15.61 lakh households, only 4.37 lakh (or 27.97 per cent) households were provided with tap connections in the state. This resulted in low utilisation of funds, the Union minister said.

Odisha was allocated Rs 364.74 crore in 2019-20, of which the state could only utilise Rs 275.02 crore, according to the letter.

For this mission, funds are provided to states based on output in terms of FHTCs provided and 'utilisation of available Central and matching state share', it said.

In his letter, Shekhawat tressed on how providing potable water to every household is a national priority.

He also said that to take the mission forward in a seamless way, the fund allocation to Odisha has been increased from Rs 364.74 crore to Rs 812.15 crore in 2020-21, sources in the ministry said.

Along with the unspent balance of Rs 90 crore, this year's central allocation of Rs 812 crore and with the matching state share, Odisha will have Rs 1,805 crore for implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission in 2020-21.

The Union minister hoped that the state will provide matching share along with the central fund on a timely basis to the implementing department for this programme, which will help to achieve the target of 100 per cent tap connection in rural areas.

Shekhawat said there should be robust planning for time bound delivery, with focus on retrofitting and augmentation of existing water supply systems in 21,516 villages so that the poor and marginalised people in these villages get tap connections immediately.

The state was suggested to take up this work in a 'campaign mode' in these villages to achieve the target.

While planning, priority is to be given to villages in water scarce areas, water quality-affected areas, aspirational districts, SC/ST dominated villages or habitations, villages under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana and PVTG habitations, the letter said.

It was further emphasized that local village community, gram panchayats and/or user groups need to be involved in planning, implementation, management, operation and maintenance of water supply systems in villages to ensure long-term sustainability to achieve drinking water security.

The Union minister said existing drinking water sources should be strengthened for long-term sustainability of drinking water supply systems. PTI SKN RG SNS ANB ANB