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India looks to create employment through rural drinking water projects

New Delhi : The Government is considering rolling out an interesting experiment across the country to provide employment, particularly to women, through taking up drinking water and wastewater management projects.

Union Drinking Water & Sanitation Minister Uma Bharati recently launched Swajal, a community-owned drinking water programme for sustained drinking water supply in Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand. Now, Bharti is keen to replicate the model across the country.

In Uttarkashi, Swajal has been given a budget of Rs 32 lakh, but Ministry officials feel that several such projects could be taken up in the country on similar terms, incurring modest costs.

The Centre is keen to implement the Uttarkashi model of creating employment through a drinking water and a waste management project, Bharti said.

“Swajal and the waste management project in this small village in Uttarkashi has provided employment to the women of that area. From laying water pipes to bringing drinking water for every household, to cultivating cash crops along water channels, helped them to earn money. ODF and waste management has generated employment. We are trying to implement the same in other states too", Bharti was quoted as saying in a PTI news report.

The Centre is looking to launch the drinking water and sanitation project on a pilot basis in six states. Plans are afoot to launch six pilot projects for clean drinking water supply in villages in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

The projects will involve locals in civil work and maintenance of the system. The projects are being implemented on a “by the people, for the people, of the people” basis even as the Union Drinking Water & Sanitation Ministry will pay 90 per cent of the cost involved and the Panchayat concerned will bear only 10 per cent.

It will be extended to all 115 backward districts identified by Niti Aayog. The first two pilots will be Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

The project will also seek to improve groundwater level by rainwater harvesting and other water recharging initiatives.

Bharti, who recently also launched the pilot project in water-scarce Bhikampura village in Karauli district of Rajasthan, urged villagers to 'own’ the project for it to become a success.

Under the project, clean drinking water will be made available to every household in the village all through the year. It will also help generate employment at the village level. A sum of Rs 54.17 lakh has been allocated for the project.

The project envisages construction of four reservoirs in the village. Common tap connections will be given to almost 300 households while operation and management of the scheme will also be in the hands of the beneficiary village.

Bhikhampura has scarcity of drinking water and people are often forced to walk upto 3 km to collect potable water. During lean season, water is supplied to people in the village by tankers.

The new project will ease the lives of the people and ensure that potable water is available for every individual round the year, Bharti said.

The Ministry has also launched projects that besides creating cleanliness, provide basic amenities to the people of villages on the banks of the Ganga. These projects too would help generate employment.

Apart from the 4465 Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages on the banks of Ganga, the Government now plans to upscale the programme in non-Ganga villages. As many as 24 villages have been identified for pilot Ganga Grams for convergence-based integrated development including solid and liquid and waste management.

The ODF Ganga villages in five states are now moving towards ODF-Plus status of having clean water resources, decentralised solid and liquid waste management, maintenance of schools and anganwadi toilets, hand washing and personal hygiene, Bharti said.

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