Water quality refers to the physical chemical & biological characteristics of water. It is a measure of the suitability of water for various uses, including drinking, irrigation, and industrial processes. Good water quality is essential for the health of ecosystems, human well-being, and sustainable development. Water quality matters significantly for a variety of reasons, encompassing human health, environmental sustainability, and economic well-being, Safe and clean water is essential for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene on the other hand poor water quality can lead to waterborne diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, and gastrointestinal infections, which can have serious health consequences and even lead to death. Water quality is crucial for public safety, as contaminated water can result in widespread illness outbreaks. Ensuring safe water supplies is a fundamental responsibility of governments and water management agencies. Water quality matters for the well-being of both people and the planet. It is a complex and interconnected issue that requires ongoing monitoring, management, and collaboration among governments, industries, communities, and environmental organizations. By prioritizing water quality, we can ensure a healthier and more sustainable future for all. Talking of Water quality challenges, it refers to the issues and concerns related to the condition of water resources, including their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. These challenges can have significant impacts on human health, ecosystems, and various industries. The water quality situation in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) can vary based on factors such as geographical location, sources of water, human activities, and environmental conditions. J&K is home to several rivers and springs including the Veerinag, Jhelum, Chenab, and Indus rivers, which are crucial water sources for the region. These rivers are vulnerable to pollution from urban and industrial runoff, agricultural runoff, and untreated sewage, which can degrade water quality. The water supply also comes from glacial melt water, particularly in the higher altitudes. Changes in glacial dynamics due to climate change had impacted both the quantity and quality of this water source in J&K. Also,Rapid urbanization, industrial growth tourism-related activities contributed to pollution and degradation of water bodies, especially in urban areas such as Srinagar and Jammu. Unplanned urban development, in adequate sewage treatment, and improper waste disposal affected water quality and J&K. Thus, Regular monitoring of water quality in different regions, Improved sewage treatment facilities, proper waste management, wastewater treatment, public awareness campaigns among communities about the importance of clean water, proper waste disposal, sustainable water use practices. Stringent enforcement of water quality regulations and policies to prevent water pollution and ensure safe water supplies and Conservation of water resources has become the top priority of the J&K administration. In order to give a push to the effective implementation of the Mission in J&K, a full-fledged Mission Directorate and Programme Management Unit has been established in the UT. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) is a flagship program of the Government of India launched in 2019 with the goal of providing safe and adequate drinking water to all rural households in the country. The mission aims to ensure that every rural household has access to functional household tap connections (FHTCs) for drinking water supply. The program focuses on providing piped water supply to rural homes, thereby eliminating the need for villagers to fetch water from distant sources, often leading to inconvenience and health issues. The Jammu and Kashmir has made remarkable progress under this mission. As, the mission aims to provide safe and clean drinking water to rural households, particularly focusing on marginalized and vulnerable communities. The J&K Administration has set a target to cover all the 20 districts of J&K under this ambitious mission. As per the data, out of total 18,66,578 households, about 12,84,374households have functional tap water connections and after three years of hard work, two districts namely Srinagar and Ganderbal have achieved 100% coverage of tap water connections, also280 villages have achieved 100% coverage of tap water connections and j&kGovt Under JJM plans to achieve the target of “HAR GHAR NAL HAR GHAR JAL” in all districts. Apart from this, J&K has made other remarkable strides under the mission. Out of 25,553 Rural Schools 23,681 have been provided tap water connections. 100% RuralAnganwadi Centres and Rural Health centres have been provided piped water connections. Besides, 1677 Gram Panchayat Buildings have been covered under piped Water Supply. Also, 6636PaniSamitis have been constituted in J&K for active involvement of local community in planning, monitoring and successful implementation of JJM. The mission involves extensive infrastructure development, including the creation and augmentation of water supply systems, installation of taps, and the construction and renovation of water storage and distribution structures. This highly rewarding mission is being implemented in a decentralized manner following the ‘bottom up’ approach, wherein the local village community plays a key role starting from planning to implementation and from management to operation and maintenance.
Since August 2019, it is ascertained that the paradigm shift in entrusting ownership of water supply systems to village level institutions, is being welcomed by the local communities, thus demonstrating ‘responsible and responsive leadership’ developing at local level. The aim is to bring transformation in the lives of people living in villages and to make villages. All these endeavours are being made to make the Jal Jeevan Mission, a JAN ANDOLAN – PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT.
J&K Govthas also decided to take up sensor-based measurement and monitoring system initially in two districts where 100% FHTC has been provided. The water supply of villages in these districts will be monitored using sensors and data will be automatically captured for analysis, display and remedial action The Union Territory of J&K has set a target to cover all districts, which includes 153 blocks, 1952 panchayats and 3254 villages.
In j&k especially during summers, and rainy days issues of water quality is ofgreat concern. To ensure quality water supply, 97 water testing laboratories have been set up across Jammu and Kashmir and these water quality testing laboratories at State, district&sub division level areopen to general public, so that people can test the water sample at nominal rate. In each lab more than 10 samples are being tested per day including sources (springs, nallas, tube wells), households, anganwadicenters, schools, public tap, Govt offices, Private samples and are uploaded on JJM portal on daily basis.Hence Government stresses not only on regular tap water supply but also on water quality. Thus, Water testing is important for monitoring the operation of water supply, verification of the safety of drinking water, investigation of disease outbreaks, validation process and preventive measures. Keeping in view the above points out of 13226 sources,12850 sources have been tested for chemical & 12486 for bacteriological parameters respectively from April 2023 till date, out of 6778 villages 6602 villages have been tested for chemical parameters & 6331 villagesfor bacteriological parameters. out of 23081 schools 21384 schools have been tested for chemical & bacteriological parameters, out of 24436 anganwadis 22128 anganwadis have been tested for chemical & bacteriological parameters. J&K Admin also plans NABL accreditation of all 97 water testing labs during the current year out of which all district labs of Kashmir division have been NABL accredited so far. Third-party Monitoring, Concurrent auditors, Media agency have been put in place for greater transparency, accountability and public awareness regarding JJM. The JJM has been transforming the face of rural water supply across India over the last three years. Through an integrated service delivery approach, the mission focused on sustainable practices with community-led and community-managed schemes, and source sustainability weaved into the water supply schemes. The transformative approach has allowed for an unprecedented reach to vulnerable communities and for children and women to strive and thrive. Over and above, Capacity-building activities are conducted to train local communities, panchayats, and institutions to manage and maintain the water supply systems effectively. To empower the local community on water quality surveillance in J&K, in every village, five persons, especially women, are being trained on the use of Field Test Kits (FTK) to test the quality of water supplied, conduct sanitary surveys, and upload the data on JJM portal in this regard Field Testing Kits and H2S vials were provided at the community level for testing of water quality for taking corrective measures. All these path breaking initiatives are running parallel with Gandhiji’s vision of GRAM SWARAJ wherein the village communities are vested with decision making powers. Jal Jeevan Mission is an opportunity for local communities to take up water quality surveillance in their villages Being aware of the various challenges. The mission emphasizes community participation and ownership in planning, implementing, and maintaining the water supply infrastructure. Local communities are actively involved in decision-making processes. There are lot of challenges that the mission face which include rugged terrain, weather-related issues, logistical challenges, and ensuring the sustainability of water supply systems over the long term. In spite of detrimental weather conditions and challenges of transportation in many areas in this difficult terrain, water supply work is in full swing to make provision of tap water supply in villages. JJM is promoting the Panchayati Raj Institutions/Rural Local Bodies to play a key role in managing in-village water supply systems. Since August 2019, it is ascertained that the paradigm shift in entrusting ownership of water supply systems to village level institutions, is being welcomed by the local communities, thus demonstrating ‘responsible and responsive leadership’ developing at local level. The aim is to bring transformation in the lives of people living in villages and to make villages. All these endeavours are being made to make the Jal Jeevan Mission, a JAN ANDOLAN – PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT.
(The author a Chemist/Water Quality Analyst has mailed this article to “Kashmir Horizon” for publication in this newspaper. The views, opinions, facts, assumptions, presumptions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)