We are determined that our promise of piped drinking water to every home be fulfilled in the time-frame, says Jal Shakti Minister
Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat speaks to Nistula Hebbar on how India is placed in terms of water availability as COVID-19 underlines the necessity of piped drinking water supply and the situation in his home State Rajasthan which remains worrisome….
Under a lockdown with summer approaching and with the injunction of constant hand washing as a preventative for the spread of COVID-19, how is India placed in terms of just water availability.
The plentiful rains last year and heavy snowfall in the Himalayan States have ensured that in terms of just volumes, we are pretty well off this year. I did a review of 132 reservoirs under the Central government, which are out of the 5,000 total reservoirs but which provide two thirds of the total supply of water across the country. I’m happy to say we have 56% more water than we had last year in the reservoirs, which is 47% higher than the average for the last 10 years. So in terms of reservoirs etc. we have no worries. This year too we have been told that monsoon will be plentiful.
Water is a State subject, what has been the feedback from the States?
Every summer there is always an issue with regard to availability etc. This year, because the COVID-19 crisis lockdown has entailed that people stay at home, it is even more important to ensure supply. The first thing I did is to hold review meetings with water Ministers of all States and asked them to ensure that there is enough drinking water during the lockdown and the weeks ahead. We have gone over the reservoir situation and of water works. There is enough water to get us through this period, both for drinking and irrigation.
The Jal Jeevan Mission was launched last year and there is a time-table to its implementation, how has COVID-19 affected that process?
The Jal Jeevan Mission was launched by hon’ble Prime Minister in September last year and yes, it is a time-bound programme, with its urgency underlined by the fact that COVID-19 is accompanied by lockdowns and the emphasis on hand-washing as a preventative. We have been creative in terms of trying to reach some of our goals despite the lockdown disruption. For example, we have asked all our engineers to complete the drafting and on paper preparatory work for the project. We have divided the mission works into those where only retrofitting is required, those where existing water bodies need to be harnessed and green field works. This has been done so that whatever can be done is finished in time. The importance of the Mission cannot be emphasised enough under the present circumstances and we are determined that our promise of piped drinking water to every home be fulfilled in the time-frame suggested earlier.
Your home State Rajasthan and particularly your constituency Jodhpur have been badly afflicted by COVID-19. What kind of information are you getting, since you haven’t been able to visit?
Jodhpur has been badly affected and most of the cases there are because of the Tableeghi Jamaat preachers and the mishandling of the situation. My constituency also includes Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s Assembly seat and the curfew or lockdown imposed there was handled very badly and very leniently. We have one example of Bhilwara where things were handled well, but we cant ignore what is happening in Jodhpur and Jaipur, where the administration is not able to get a handle on things.