Do all Rural Areas in These 3 States, 3 UTs Get Tap Water Supply as Govt Claims?
Centre claims 100% tap water coverage, but people in rural areas still struggle with inconsistent supply, contaminated water and dependence on tankers
Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Prahlad Singh Patel told the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha recently that, as planned, all rural households in Goa, Telangana, Haryana, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Puducherry and Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli have been provided with tap water supply.
When asked about the target of supplying piped water to every household in the country under Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) and the achievement so far, Patel said, "Out of 19.22 crore rural households in the country, 8.55 crore (44.5%) have provision of tap water supply in their homes." He added, "Provision of tap water supply to all rural households have been made in Goa, Telangana, Haryana, A&N Islands, Puducherry and Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. None of the states are reported to be lagging behind."
Under JJM, the finalised timeline for making provision of tap water supply to every rural household in Bihar has also been mentioned as 2021. But, according to JJM's official dashboard, 19.48 lakh rural households in Bihar are yet to receive piped water supply. This means around 11% of the state's rural households have not been provided with tap water supply (as of December 3, 2021). While the records show that all rural households in the rest of these states and Union Territories have been provided piped water supply, the potable water that many of them get is contaminated.
Bihar: 100% Tap Water Supply a Pipe Dream, Says Official
Around 89% of Bihar's rural households get piped water and on the list of districts with the lowest reach of water connections Aurangabad, Saharsa and Araria are on top. with 74.42% households covered in Aurangabad, 73.54% in Sahrasa and 71.72% in Araria. Moreover, the dashboard also shows that the state is currently working on supplying water to 8,799 or 22.3% of the villages in Bihar and in 1.94% villages the work hasn't even started yet.
DS Mishra, Engineer-in-Chief cum Special Secretary at Bihar's Public Health Engineering Department said more than 97% of rural households have been supplied with tap water, but the data hasn't been updated on the dashboard.
"This is primarily because of the data not being entered into the [JJM] portal. It's a challenge because many still don't have Aadhaar cards, and if they've received a [tap water] connection, the data entered has to be linked to their Aadhar cards. There's always a gap between what the real numbers are and what the dashboard shows," Mishra told FcatChecker.
He also explained that achieving 100% coverage is quite challenging. "There will always be homes that won't receive water supply instantly as there are always pending issues. Examples: if someone decides to build a home a kilometre away from the supply range, if people aren't home for long periods or if someone decides to build a house in a mountainous area. In these cases, it'll be very difficult for them to receive water supply instantly," said Mishra.
The MoS also mentioned the Lok Sabha that "all drinking water sources are to be tested for contaminations". But, 10.56% of the water samples from Bihar tested in laboratories, were found to be contaminated as of December 3, 2021, according to the Water Quality dashboard maintained under by JJM. No tests using field test-kits (FTKs) were reported in the portal.
When told about people getting contaminated water in taps, Mishra said, "There could be impurities in pipes or at source or if there is any accumulation of water from dirty and polluted drainage systems, it could result in unsanitary conditions too."
In fact, on July 22, 2021, Patel told the Lok Sabha that 18 districts and 3,954 rural habitations in Bihar have water sources with quality issues.
When asked about remedial action taken for contaminated water, Mishra said the time taken on a particular supply system is very subjective. "If there are floods and there is an overload of such flood water in the pipes as well, then the entire line has to be worked on and disinfected. Such lines can be a kilometre long or even 50 kilometres in length," said the official.
Goa: 100% Coverage, But Irregular Supply
Goa has 2.63 lakh rural households and, according to the dashboard, all have received tap water connections. In December 2020, Goa was just 116 connections shy of its target, which was met in March 2021.
When it comes to the quality of drinking water, out of the 4,055 samples tested in laboratories, only 2 were contaminated (~0.04%) and no tests using FTKs were reported on the portal.
FactChecker spoke to local farmers, villagers, and an official working with the Water Supply & Sanitation scheme of Goa's Public Works Department (PWD) only to find that while tap water connections have been provided, the supply of water is irregular, and the frequency even drops to once every two days for at most an hour.
Goa was declared as the first "Har Ghar Jal" state in the country in October 2020 and Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had then announced that, "All rural homes in the state now have tap water supply."
But, Kumar Kalanand Mani (66), a resident of village Chimbel in Goa who works with the Peaceful Society, said, "If the CM is interested, he can come just 5 kms from Panaji to Chimbel and see that the supply system is extremely unreliable in rural areas."
He added, "In my area, [water] supply started for the first time in 22 years in March this year, and now water is supplied for just 1 hour every second day. And later we realised that that water is not drinkable. Also, we were compelled to buy a meter for Rs 1,500 and we had to pay connection fees of around Rs 3,300, even for a government scheme."
Another villager, Lalita Vallabhaneni from Verem in North Goa, said they don't even have a tap yet. "All households have not got connections. We had taken a PWD connection long back, but the PWD people came and removed the tap from there. Now we only have a well to source water from. I also filed a written complaint last year," said 39-year-old Vallabaneni, who has a family of five.
In February 2021, CM Sawant had said that there is a shortage of 76 MLD (millions of litres per day) of potable water in the state. "The total requirement for the purpose of drinking purpose in Goa is 589 MLD, of which we are supplying 513 MLD. There is a shortage of 76.37 MLD water for drinking purpose," The Hindustan Times quoted Sawant as saying.
Then, there are mining-affected villages in the state too that rely solely on tankers for water. Hanumant Parab (45), who lives in Pissurlem village in North Goa with his 11-year-old son, wife, and mother, told FactChecker, "Our village comes under a mining belt, and not all households get tap water despite getting connections. And those who do, get water supply for just three hours daily."
"We used to have a well in the village and were not reliant on tap water earlier. But now, due to mining activities, we only rely on water supplied by tankers, which are provided by the mining companies, and this is also contaminated," he added.
A PWD official FactChecker spoke to stood by the claim that all rural households in Goa have tap water supply, but he also agreed that villages receive irregular supply of water.
Santosh Mhapne, Chief Engineer-I at Water Supply & Sanitation scheme of Goa's PWD, said, "In some areas it's for a few hours, but there are areas which receive a 24-hour supply as well. It really depends on the production [in water treatment plants] and supply. There are proposals in the pipeline to augment existing [water treatment] plants, but that will take some time."
When asked if residents had to pay for water connections, he said, "Yes, it's similar to that in case of electricity, you have to pay to install the meters and connections."
Mhapne attributed households not receiving water despite getting connections to technical challenges. "When a connection is given, usually the water is released. But, for example, there are homes which are at an altitude [and so they don't receive water]. There is no problem with supply, but just due to technical challenges water may not be supplied," he said.
Telangana: Water Tapped, But With Fluoride
The tally of water supply to rural homes in Telangana is 100% — all 54.06 lakh rural households in the state have been provided with tap water connections, according to the JJM dashboard.
Out of 1.70 lakh samples of drinking water tested in laboratories, only 424 or 0.24% were found to be contaminated. Under tests through FTKs, out of 904 samples tested, 3 or 0.33% were found to be contaminated.
Three researchers from Telangana tested the water from 31 rural habitats in Mahabubnagar and tested them at Palamuru University. "Overall, 32% of groundwater samples found to be exceeded the prescribed limits of fluoride in the study area, as prescribed by the World Health Organization," read the study published in August 2020. Prolonged intake of drinking water with fluoride concentrations higher than acceptable limits can trigger dental and skeletal fluorosis in the general community of the study region, wrote the researchers.
Union Territories: No Testing Impurities
Puducherry has 1.14 lakh rural homes and all of them are reported to have tap water connections, according to the JJM dashboard. As many as 93,506 or 81.37% of the households already had tap water connections at the time JJM was launched — August 15, 2019. Between August 2019 and April 2021, a total of 21,402 tap water connections were provided in rural homes. No water samples were tested in the Union Territory to check for contamination of drinking water.
Both Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli together have 96 villages and, according to JJM, none of the rural households had got tap water before the mission was launched.
In fact, the first tap water connections were finalised in March 2021 and in five months, all rural households in both the UTs had tap water connections.
On the other hand, the quality of drinking water was not tested in any of the villages in the UTs.
In A&N Islands, by March 2021, all 62,037 rural households had received tap water connections, as per the JJM dashboard. But, of the 392 samples of drinking water from the islands tested in laboratories, 6.63% were found to be contaminated and of the 443 samples tested using FTKs, 24.6% were contaminated.
Since the deadline for Haryana is 2022, FactChecker did not look into its records for verification.