Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the Centre was planning to provide piped water supply to all rural households by 2024 under the Jal Jeevan Mission. She added that by 2022 every rural family in India would have an electricity connection and a clean cooking facility under the Ujjwala Yojana and the Saubhagya Yojana.

“Ensuring India’s water security and providing access to safe and adequate drinking water to all Indians is a priority of the government,” Sitharaman told Parliament while presenting the Union Budget. “A major step in this direction has been the constitution of the Jal Shakti Mantralaya, integrating the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.”

The Jal Shakti Ministry has been allocated Rs 28,261.59 crore for the 2019-’20 fiscal year. The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation has been earmarked Rs 20,016.34 crore compared to Rs 19,992.97 crore in 2018-’19. The National Drinking Rural Mission has been allocated Rs 7,750.36 crore. The Department of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation has been allocated Rs 8,245.25 crore.

Sitharaman said the new ministry would “look at the management of our water resources and water supply in an integrated and holistic manner, and will work with States to ensure Har Ghar Jal [water supply to all homes]” by 2024. “The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and state government schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country,” she added.

The finance minister said the government had identified 1,592 blocks across 256 districts critical for the Jal Shakti Abhiyan. “Besides using funds available under various schemes, the government will also explore possibility of using additional funds available under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority,” Sitharaman added.

Water scarcity

Several parts of the country are facing acute water shortage and drought. As many as 23 out of 30 districts in Karnataka have been declared drought-hit, amid a below-normal monsoon. As many as 5,000 villages in Maharashtra have been hit by water crisis.

Tamil Nadu is also reeling under a massive water crisis. Last month, the Edappadi Palaniswami-led government initially rejected Kerala’s offer of 20 lakh litres of drinking water. However, Palaniswami later thanked his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan, and said Tamil Nadu “needs every drop of water”.

As the crisis refused to die down, Palaniswami said his government was doing all it could to rectify the water problem. Senior officers were put in charge of each zone in Chennai to identify areas of water scarcity and ensure the supply of water.

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