Govt plans new policy to recover water tariffs from all kinds of consumers

The government wants to bring about structural changes to the provisions for drinking water supply services with a “utility-based” approach, according to the operational guidelines for the Jal Jeevan Mission released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday. The move will enable institutions to focus on services and recover water tariffs from all kinds of consumers. 

The project cost of providing 146 million functional household tap connections is estimated to be Rs 3.60 trillion, of which the Centre’s share will be Rs 2.08 trillion. 

According to the government data, of the 179 million rural households in the country, 81.67 per cent are yet to have water tap connections. 

States will have a definite operations and maintenance policy, especially to meet the requirements such as monthly energy cost of the piped water supply scheme, by ensuring cost recovery from user groups and thereby avoiding any unwanted burden on public exchequer, according to the guidelines. 

The Centre will make available extra budgetary resources for the Mission, which will be allocated along with gross budgetary support to the states. The government will incentivise good performance of states out of the fund not utilised by other states towards the end of the financial year, the guidelines said.

On the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), funds released by the Centre will be deposited in a single nodal account, which will be maintained by the State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM), to be transferred within 15 days of release. The Public Finance Management System (PFMS) will be used for tracking the funds. “The SWSM will decide rate contracts and empanel reputed construction agencies/ vendors through centralised tendering and also to prepare design templates for expeditious implementation.”

No expenditure towards operation and maintenance cost of the scheme such as electricity charges, salary of regular staff, and purchase of land, etc, will be allowed from the central share.

In order to prevent the creation of parallel water supply infrastructure deviating from the approved plan, “It has been proposed to assess and pool the fund available for drinking water supply from various sources, be it the government such as MPLADS, MLALADS, DMDF or donations whether at state level or village level”, the guidelines said.

Gram panchayats will play a crucial role in planning, designing, execution, operations and maintenance of the in-village infrastructure under the Jal Jeevan Mission. State governments will identify and empanel self-help groups, NGOs among others to provide handholding facilities, and encourage community participation.

Every village will have to prepare a village action plan (VAP), which will have three components: water source and its maintenance, water supply, and grey water management. These plans will be aggregated at district level and thereafter at state level to formulate a state action plan. 

“The state action plan will give a holistic view especially covering projects like regional grids, bulk water supply and distribution projects to address the needs of water-stressed areas and will also have a plan for ensuring drinking water security in the state,” the guidelines said. 

The government has proposed convergence with existing schemes such as MGNREGS to implement mandatory source sustainability measures like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, and other water conservation measures.

The guidelines also propose that 5 per cent capital cost contribution towards in-village water supply infrastructure in hilly, forested, and more than 50 per cent SC/ST dominant population villages, and 10 per cent in the remaining villages, to bring in a sense of ownership and pride among rural communities. “Communities to be rewarded by providing 10 per cent of the in-village infrastructure cost of the scheme which will be maintained by them as a revolving fund to meet any unforeseen expenditure due to break down, etc,” the guidelines proposed. 

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