Installation of Reverse Osmosis, give way to pure water in Punjab

With two – third of the earth’s surface covered by water and being one of the most essential component of life, water plays a very important role in the society. Keeping in view the same, the government of Punjab has been conducive towards the dire need of the residents to have purified water consumption, which is clearly evident by its initiative of installation of Reverse Osmosis in both the urban as well as the rural areas of the state.

Installation of Reverse Osmosis, give way to pure water in PunjabReverse Osmosis is a process in which a solvent passes through a porous membrane in the direction opposite to that for natural osmosis when subjected to a hydrostatic pressure greater than the osmotic pressure. In simple words, Reverse Osmosis purification systems are used for filtering the dissolved minerals and other contaminants of water.

The Reverse Osmosis Plants are being installed in the rural areas of Punjab, where dissolved solids (TDS), uranium, fluoride and hardness of water was found to be beyond the permissible limits. The installation of reverse osmosis plants is catering to the needs of the people living in rural areas, with the provision of clean and treated water for cooking and drinking purposes.

The Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government had installed approximately 1811 reverse osmosis plants during March 2009 – December 2012 in about 16 districts of the Punjab state under various projects such as the Punjab Nirman Programme, additional central assistance of Rs25 crore, and the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB). Punjab being a state where about 327 villages were identified to have total dissolved solids (TDS) in the ground water more than the prescribed desired limit of 500 particles per million (PPM), The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) approved the installation of reverse osmosis plants in about 573 villages in Punjab, back in the year 2013.

The initiative was accomplished with the installation of 1508 reverse osmosis plants at a cost of Rs 188.59 crore, in the rural areas of the state some of which include 271 RO plants in Bathinda, 39 in Ludhiana, 178 in Firozpur, 186 in Moga, 66 in Tarn Taran, 293 in Fazlika, 13 in Kapurthala, 13 in Barnala, 2 in Fatehgarh Sahib and installation of 72 reverse osmosis plants at Sangrur.

Punjab government’s Higher Education, Water Supply & Sanitation Minister, Surjit Singh Rakhra while exclaiming about the augmenting education sector of the state, appreciated the responsive government of Punjab for the efficient provisions of potable drinking water and toilets to all households in the state. He further expressed his gratitude on the installation of reverse osmosis systems in the villages and also appealed to the panchayat’s and people that they should consume only reverse osmosis (RO) system water because it is very clean and hygienic.

Needless to say, the expenditure incurred by the state government for the installation of reverse osmosis plants in the rural areas is definitely a productive investment in terms of good health of the people living in the rural areas.

24 hour water supply in villages, a leap towards Punjab’s prosperity

Bhago Devi, wife of a small time farmer of Railon Khurd in district Ropar, no longer stores drinking water in in the containers in his house. Till a few years, this was a daily routine for her as the fear of water going out of stock would always loom large. But ever since the management and maintenance of water supply was handed over to the villagers in her village, there is a big respite as now there is a 24 hour water supply in every household.

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Railon Khurd is one of the eight villages in Punjab where life has changed for the inhabitants with a 24 hour supply of water in the villages. Other villages which have become part of path breaking projects are Chitmali, Paprala, Rasulpur Dedran, Manhera Jattan of Fatehgarh Sahib village Singhpura and Sitabgarh. The villagers here have been able to get this amenity with the help of collaborative efforts from the Punjab government and the World Bank.

According to Priya Ojha a community mobilization specialist, this was possible because of zeal and enthusiasm of villagers, particularly the women. Under the project, the villagers are made to have complete control over the availability and supply of water and revenue collection. This is a real democratic scheme which imbibes the concept of by the people for the people and of the people.

In fact it was due to the holistic approach and sustained efforts of the state leadership that the number of villages having 24 hours water supply has risen substantially in last few years. The investment for each scheme was between Rs. 37 lakh to Rs 58 lakhs. Under the scheme, a piped distribution network has to be built to households by accessing ground water aquifers or canal water, and also overhead reservoirs to store the water.

Challenges which were dealt with

With ever rising demand of water due to growing population and the ground water level going down, improving water supply in the villages has been one of the biggest challenges for the state government. Still about 17% of villages in Punjab do not have water supply systems at all, while in the remaining there is only intermittent supply. Besides there are areas which have heavily contaminated water. Initially villagers were reluctant to opt for the scheme and make contribution. For making it financially viable in an average village of about 22 households at least 70 % of households had to take water connections. Despite several awareness campaigns like Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns, when villagers did not show much interest in the programme, the cost sharing provisions were modified. As per the new provisions upper limits for community contributions were slashed from Rs.1,500 to Rs. 800. The amount for contributions was further lowered for border villages and others which were vulnerable to floods.

For effective implementation, audits were linked with the release of funds and the panchayat records were regularly updated. This ensured that there was no delay in the release of funds and the implementation was executed as per the plans.

Water supply schemes in rural areas of Punjab become a hallmark

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Despite acute shortage of water for irrigation and the groundwater level going down, Punjab government has not only succeeded in implementing schemes related to drinking water supply in the rural areas of the state but has also set an example for several other states.  It was in 2006 first that the Punjab government launched a medium-term program under the World Bank-supported Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project. The project had a target of providing all the 15,170 habitations with 70 litres per capita per day (lpcd) of safe drinking water.

Schemes for water meters and connections

The government prepared elaborate plans to ensure regular water supply to the villages which were targeted under its Medium Term Programme sans any financial support from the government. Though initially only a few villages were to be covered, in later phases, the plan aimed at extending the scheme to all the villages in Punjab. To ensure financial sustainability, and cover maximum areas, the government has also drafted a new water policy. The basic objective of policy was to encourage metered water connections in the rural areas and provide regular water supply in a feasible manner.

To start with, in a bid to give boost to the project, Punjab government proposed to provide water meters with water connection in 100 villages of state on pilot basis. With billing being linked with the consumption of water directly, the poor consumers were to be the main beneficiary. Metering and billing was promoted to encourage people to save water and prevent leakage and waste.  It gave desired results and by January 2013, as many as 200 out of the 840 villages covered under the project had opted for metered household connections. What was more significant was that 15 of these villages round-the-clock water supply.

Complaint redressal system

In a bid to increase accountability in the rural and remote areas and make functioning of employees involved with the project and scheme more effective, a unique complaint redressal system was formed.

In November 2009, a Shikayat Nivaran Kendra was set up with a toll free number where rural consumers could call round the clock and register their complaints online, request services and track progress of their complaints. So as to ensure impartiality, the work was outsourced to an independent agency.

With every official remaining connected with the online system through phone or internet, it is now easy for top officials to directly monitor complaints.

The average time that should normally be taken to address a particular complaints was specified and if a complaint was not rectified within the given period, it was to be forwarded to a senior official. The system also ensured that the complaints were not shown closed till the consumer complainant was not satisfied.

Now covering over 16 million consumers in more than 15,000 habitations, the system is helping curtail absenteeism and non-performance of employees in remote villages, which was nearly impossible otherwise This has also made those involved with the management, more transparent, accountable and consumer-friendly.

Others emulating

The complaint redressal system about water problems has been so successful that the Union government has suggested to other states to replicate the redressal system. West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan have already approached Punjab government to emulate the functioning.

Water and Sanitation projects based on Punjab’s effective policy proving a boon for rural areas

The success of various projects and initiatives in providing water and sanitation in different areas of Punjab can be attributed to the holistic approach of state government which finds reflection in its policy on Water and Sanitation.

With its Water and Sanitation policy, the government has set up an agenda to provide optimum quantity and acceptable quality of water and sanitation for all on sustainable basis. The Punjab Drinking Water Policy was approved in May 2011 and certain modifications were made to evolve to the growing needs. The policy has been drafted keeping in view the significance of sanitation, with uniformity in providing the facilities, remaining the key area of focus.

The policy aims at providing a broad framework and guidelines to provincial institutions, district administration and Tehsil Municipal Administration for improving sanitation coverage and services in the areas. A holistic approach ensuring fair distribution of resources is the basic objective of the policy, which revolves around improving the sanitation coverage and disparities in the rural areas.

Water and Sanitation projects based on Punjab's effective policy proving a boon for rural areas

On a larger scale the primary focus of water supply and sanitation policy is to improve socio economic condition and to raise living standard of the community by providing quality drinking water and improved sanitation services all over the state.

The long term strategy of Punjab government has a vision to reform water and sanitation in all the 12248 villages with 11,930 gram panchayats in 20 districts of state. The objective is to improve the living conditions of its 166 million population by 100% water supply coverage with better service standards and private service connections to most households.

With a purpose to improve environmental sanitation a provision has been made in the policy to encourage projects which initiate work on pilot basis in about 100 villages for providing modern underground waste water collection and disposal systems. The government has also chosen a sector wide approach to implement medium term sector programme for all new investments, irrespective of the source of funding.

Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (PRWSS) Project

The project is a remarkable initiative of state government in collaboration with the union government and IDA(world Bank) which is aimed at reforming the Water supply and sanitation sector in the rural areas of Punjab.

In fact the Department of Water Supply and Sanitation (DWSS) has developed certain key features in its policy draft which work as a guideline to carry forward the objectives of the project. As per it the rural local government along with the user groups have been made responsible for upgradation and management of intra-village Rural Water supply and Sanitation (RWSS) facilities and services. It also has introduced partial capital cost sharing by users.

Workable and low cost Sewerage and Sanitation

The government has taken fresh initiative for developing workable and low cost sewerage system in the form of small bore sewerage system and cost effective sewage treatment technologies. The prime reason for adopting small boring sewerage system was the high capital cost of conventional sewerage system and availability of less quantity of waste water in rural areas for effective functioning of conventional sewerage system.

Initially Punjab government executed small bore drainage system in three villages of state in 2004-05. Besides conventional sewerage system was also commissioned in four villages. The project has a provision to finance on pilot basis construction of small bore sewers and sewerage schemes in about 100 villages which already have good house hold sanitation coverage.

More projects in offing

Besides a number of other development initiatives are being taken by the government in the current financial year of 2015-16. For instance under Saaf Pani initiative a sum  of Rs 11,000 million was allocated by the government.

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Punjab leads Sanitation Development

When it comes to ensuring quality life and equality in sanitation, Punjab makes it to the top. It is a proud privilege for the state to become first state in the country to become ‘open defecation state’, after having given the facility of public toilets to 75 percent of its population.

Nature’s Call just a toilet Away for Punjab Villages

To take it forward the government has launched a project to ensure each and every house in villages have their own toilets which would in any case maintain a check on the open defecation.

The plan is to have 2.68 lakh latrines would come up in 4000 villages, which is in addition to 24,585 such latrines which have already come up in 749 villages.  8 lakh latrines would come up in the next 2 years, which is the target of the government. It would cost Rs 1200 crore for construction of these latrines and this would ensure there is no open defecation in the rural belts of the state.

It was two years back that the state government had announced it will launch a project to ensure each house in the village has a toilet. Today it is close to becoming a reality.

The Punjab government is said to have come up with over 33 lakh toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for over 7.92 lakh families who will get the privilege of using their own toilets, for which the government has spent over Rs 937 crore.

In the next two years the state government plans shelling out Rs 1200 crore, a decision to which effect was taken by the chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The government has also successfully implemented its other rural government project to ensure 100 percent water connections. The deputy commissioners of the respective villages have also been directed to ensure rural toilets are constructed on priority in their respective areas.

Rising Numbers: There has been an increase in the population of rural areas if we compare it using the help of 2011 statistics. This has further necessitated the need to provide them with proper toilets. The increase has been to 3.3 million rural households from 2.7 million which comes to 72 percent increase in the population in rural areas of the state. The government has hence launched this scheme which is a move to develop

Touching base with People:

To make this scheme a success in the state, the government has ensured it directly involves the general public which can go a long way in checking open defecation. In all, 166 Panchayats have won Nirmal Gram Puraksar of the centre. An interesting facet of the scheme is how photographs of the beneficiaries standing by the constructed toilet are uploaded on the union government website ensure transparency or anything. Meanwhile over 18,000 such photographs have been used so far on the site. The government is also

Toilet Stats:

Number of rural households: 3.3 Million

Access to toilets: 3.3 Million.

Women using Toilets: 87 percent

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