Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Wednesday said the government provided drinking water supply to 5.5 crore households since the launch of the Jal Jeevan Mission despite all odds posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the 5th ISC-FICCI Sanitation Awards and India Sanitation Conclave, he said a total of 8.5 crore households have drinking water supply at their home now.
"In 70 years, just 17 per cent households had tap water facilities but despite all odds of Covid, we provided additional water to 27 per cent of households and in absolute numbers, the three crore households where water reached now that number has risen to 8.5 crore. Now 5.5 crore household women have got rid of the curse," he said.
Shekhawat said the Jal Jeevan Mission is being implemented keeping women at the centre stage.
"The 73rd amendment of the Constitution says that all these programmes must be community owned and we implemented all the programmes keeping women at the centre. During this Covid period we trained 7.5 lakh women and gave field testing kit to them to ensure that quality water is delivered to them," he said.
The Jal Jeevan Mission, launched in 2019, is envisioned to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India.
Noting that the current government gave a life of dignity to women by going open defecation free, the minister said the focus is now on behaviour change.
"When we talk about complete sustainability then faecal waste, solid and liquid waste and plastic waste and cattle generated waste...a solution of it at village level and its disposal has to be achieved with a cluster-based approach and we are working on it," he said.
He said the work has started to develop a water protocol in the country.
"Across the country, we are working on establishing water quality testing laboratories in each district, and 2,000 such laboratories have been established and in the next one year we will have 6,000 such laboratories...," he said.
Shekhawat further said that to replenish underwater resources, the government is working on aquifer recharge.
"The government is working on aquifer mapping but society needs to participate in it," he said.