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Centre approves national rural drinking water scheme restructuring

New Delhi : The Union Cabinet has given its approval for restructuring of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) to make it competitive and outcome-based even as the Government has said that Central funds under the programme will be allocated on the basis of performance of states.

The NRDWP has been restructured with an increased focus on sustainability of schemes to ensure good quality service delivery to the rural population. The Cabinet has also approved a sum of Rs 23050 crore for the programme for the period - 2017-18 to 2019-20, co-terminus in line with the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) period.

The programme will cover the rural population across the country. The restructuring will make the programme flexible, result-oriented, competitive, and will enable the Union Water and Sanitation Ministry to reach the goal of increasing coverage of sustainable piped water supply in rural areas.

With the restructuring of the NRDWP, two per cent of the funds will be earmarked for Japanese Encephalitis/Acute Encephalitis Syndrome-affected areas.

A new sub-programme, National Water Quality Sub-Mission (NWQSM), started by the Drinking Water & Sanitation Ministry in February 2017, will address the urgent need for providing clean drinking water to about 28,000 arsenic and fluoride- affected habitations, which have been already identified.

For the new programme, about Rs 12500 crore as Central share will be required over four years, till March 2021. This is being funded from the allocation under the NRDWP.

States have also been given more flexibility in utilisation of the NRDWP funds by reducing the number of components under the programme.

Pre-financing for the agreed schemes, to the extent of half of the second instalment amount, will be made by state governments, which will be reimbursed later from the Central funding.

"If the state(s) fails to claim this amount before November 30 in a financial year, then these funds will become a part of the common pool, which will be released to the high performing states, which have already pre-financed the requisite Government of India share on a first come, first serve basis," an official statement said.

The other half of second installment of funds will be released to the states based on functionality status of completed piped water supply schemes, which will be evaluated through a third party, it has been proposed.

According to the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) of the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, about 77 per cent of rural habitations in India have achieved a fully covered (FC) status (40 litre per capita per day) and 56 per cent of the rural population have access to tap water through public stand posts, within which 16.7 per cent have household connections.

The NRDWP was started in 2009, with a major emphasis on ensuring sustainability (source) of water availability in terms of potability, adequacy, convenience, affordability and equity.

The NRDWP Centrally sponsored scheme has 50:50 fund sharing between the Centre and the states. However, over the years, the need for restructuring the programme based on learning from the success achieved and the deficiencies was felt.

The Government has now decided to focus on piped water supply, increase level of service delivery, thrust on coverage of water quality affected habitations, coverage of open defecation free (ODF) declared villages, Integrated Action Plan (IAP) districts, border out posts (BOP) with piped water supply and institutional set up for proper O&M of water supply assets.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Water and Sanitation S S Ahluwalia said Central funds would now on be available only for performing states.

"States will have to first spend their own money on the implementation of the Central scheme and only then they will be able to avail the second instalment from the Centre. The second instalment of funds will be allocated on the basis of performance of the states,” said Ahuwalia at a recent press conference.

“The proposed amendments will make the programme flexible, result oriented and competitive. We have put the whole scheme of rural drinking water in a challenge mode,” he added.

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