Beyond infrastructure: How Jal Jeevan Mission empowers rural households in Maharashtra

JJM's ripple effect on rural Maharashtra (Image: AI generated, Freepik)
JJM's ripple effect on rural Maharashtra (Image: AI generated, Freepik)
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Launched in 2019, the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) aims to provide every rural household with adequate and safe drinking water by 2024. A paper based on a study of 50 households in four villages in Pune district, Maharashtra examines JJM's impact, comparing it to previous water supply schemes and highlighting its focus on service delivery, sustainability, and community involvement, unlike prior infrastructure-centered programs. The study gathered data on access to safe drinking water, satisfaction levels, and health status before and after JJM's implementation.

Improved access to safe drinking water

Prior to JJM, villagers in the surveyed areas struggled with obtaining safe drinking water. Distant, often contaminated sources like wells and rivers necessitated long daily treks for water collection, a burden primarily borne by women and children. This not only caused physical strain but also limited time for other activities. The poor water quality frequently resulted in waterborne diseases due to a lack of proper filtration and sanitation. JJM's introduction revolutionised water access and quality.

By providing Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTCs), JJM ensured a reliable supply of clean water delivered directly to homes, eliminating the need for long water collection trips. Additionally, JJM implemented advanced filtration and purification systems with regular maintenance, significantly improving water quality and reducing waterborne diseases.

Community participation and ownership

A critical aspect of JJM's success lies in its emphasis on community involvement and ownership of water supply projects. The mission adopted a bottom-up approach, encouraging local communities to participate actively in the planning, implementation, and maintenance of water infrastructure.

Formation of Paani Samitis: JJM empowered communities in Maharashtra through Paani Samitis, village water committees. These committees, with diverse representation, ensured transparency and accountability in JJM projects. JJM provided training programs for Paani Samiti members and local technicians, equipping them to manage and maintain water infrastructure sustainably. This fostered a sense of collective responsibility for the water supply systems, ensuring the program addressed the diverse needs of the community. Beyond Paani Samitis, JJM engaged the broader population through awareness campaigns, promoting water conservation and hygiene practices.

Enhanced community engagement: JJM's reach went beyond Paani Samitis. Educational campaigns using workshops, posters, and radio broadcasts informed villagers on water conservation, hygiene, and the new systems. This awareness shift led to positive changes like boiling water and promptly fixing leaks, ultimately contributing to JJM's success.

Technological integration and innovation: The JJM leveraged advanced technologies to ensure the efficient and sustainable management of water resources. This technological integration played a crucial role in improving the reliability and quality of water supply in the surveyed villages.

Real-time monitoring and management: The use of digital platforms and IoT devices enabled real-time monitoring and management of water supply systems. The Ejalshakti digital platform facilitated real-time data collection and analysis, allowing for prompt detection and resolution of issues such as leaks, contamination, and system failures. This proactive approach ensured the continuous and efficient functioning of the water supply infrastructure. The deployment of IoT sensors in water tanks and pipelines provided real-time information on water levels, flow rates, and quality. These sensors helped in optimising water usage and detecting anomalies early, thereby reducing water wastage and ensuring a consistent supply.

Sustainable water management practices: JJM emphasised the adoption of sustainable water management practices to enhance the longevity and resilience of water supply systems. The installation of rainwater harvesting systems in the villages helped in augmenting the groundwater levels and reducing dependence on external water sources. This practice proved particularly beneficial during the dry seasons, ensuring a steady water supply throughout the year. The mission promoted techniques such as percolation tanks and recharge wells to enhance groundwater recharge. These methods improved the availability of groundwater for both drinking and agricultural purposes, contributing to the overall water security of the villages.

Health and well-being improvements: Access to safe drinking water led to a dramatic decline in waterborne diseases, boosting health and reducing healthcare costs. Time saved from water collection empowered women and families, allowing them to pursue education, income generation, and other activities. JJM also promoted sustainable water management through rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge. Furthermore, community ownership was fostered through Paani Samitis, and real-time monitoring ensured efficient water use. JJM's impact goes beyond just water, creating a ripple effect that empowers communities and improves lives.

Enhanced quality of life: FHTCs transformed daily life. Villagers, particularly women, gained significant time previously spent collecting water. This newfound freedom empowered them to pursue education, income generation, and community activities, ultimately improving their socio-economic status and promoting gender equality.

Comparative analysis with previous schemes

The study's comparative analysis between the JJM and previous water supply schemes, particularly the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), highlighted several key advancements and improvements.

Shift from infrastructure to service delivery: One of the fundamental differences between JJM and NRDWP is the shift in focus from merely building infrastructure to ensuring effective service delivery. While NRDWP focused primarily on constructing water supply infrastructure, it often fell short in terms of service delivery and sustainability. Many projects under NRDWP faced issues such as poor maintenance, inadequate water quality, and inconsistent supply. JJM addressed these limitations by emphasising regular maintenance, real-time monitoring, and community involvement. The focus on service delivery ensured that households received a consistent and high-quality water supply, leading to better outcomes compared to NRDWP.

Enhanced sustainability measures: JJM incorporated several sustainability measures that were either lacking or less emphasized in previous schemes. The emphasis on rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge under JJM contributed to the long-term sustainability of water resources. These practices ensured a more resilient water supply system, capable of withstanding seasonal variations and climatic changes. By fostering community participation and ownership, JJM created a more sustainable model of water management. The active involvement of local communities in maintaining and monitoring the water infrastructure ensured its longevity and reliability.

Comprehensive capacity building: JJM's approach to capacity building marked a significant improvement over previous schemes. JJM's capacity-building initiatives included training programs for Paani Samiti members, local technicians, and community health workers. These programs equipped them with the necessary skills to manage and maintain water supply systems effectively. Extensive awareness campaigns and educational programs under JJM helped in changing community behavior towards water conservation and hygiene practices. This focus on education and awareness contributed to the overall success and sustainability of the mission.

Challenges and future directions

JJM's success hinges on long-term sustainability. Regular maintenance of water infrastructure (pipes, filtration) is crucial, requiring community involvement and sustained funding. Effective water resource management like groundwater recharge and adapting to changing weather patterns is also vital. Ensuring allocated funds are used effectively necessitates transparency and robust mechanisms to prevent misuse. Finally, continued capacity building for communities empowers them to manage the systems effectively, fostering long-term ownership and sustainability.

While challenges remain, the success of JJM provides valuable lessons for future water management policies and programs. By fostering an ecosystem of community-driven, sustainable water management, JJM is paving the way for a resilient and equitable water supply system for rural India.

The full paper can be viewed here

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Post By: Amita Bhaduri