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Union Budget 2019-20: No specific funds for Narendra Modi’s pet rural water supply scheme

The new Jal Jeevan Mission will need to converge with other Central and State government schemes.

To fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of piped water supply to all rural households by 2024, the new Jal Jeevan Mission — which has no budget allocation of its own — will need to converge with other Central and State government schemes, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The budget for the National Rural Drinking Water Mission, a key component of Jal Jeevan Mission, has been doubled from last year’s revised estimates to more than ₹10,000 crore.

The allocation for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, on the other hand, has fallen by 25%, despite the Finance Minister’s proposal to expand the mission to achieve 100% solid waste management.

Integrated approach

Stating that the country’s water security and access to safe and adequate drinking water for all Indians is a priority of the government, Ms. Sitharaman said the Jal Jeevan Mission would focus on “integrated demand and supply side management of water at the local level, including creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture.”

To achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country, the Jal Jeevan Mission would converge with other Central and State government schemes, she added. The national rural Drinking Water Mission has been allocated a budget estimate of ₹10,001 crore for 2019-20, compared to last year’s budget estimate of ₹7000 crore and revised estimates of just ₹5,500 crore.

The ongoing Jal Shakti Abhiyan, a water conservation campaign in 256 water-stressed districts also has no separate allocation, depending on funds available under existing schemes, mostly in the rural development sector.

However, the Centre is also exploring the possibility of accessing additional funds from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), said the Finance Minister.

With regards to Swachh Bharat, the plan is to build on the success of the open defecation free movement of the last five years by sustaining behavioural change and harnessing the latest technologies available to transform waste into energy. Ms. Sitharaman proposed to expand the programme “to undertake sustainable solid waste management in every village”, a more modest agenda than the 100% safe disposal of both solid and liquid waste that was suggested by the Economic Survey on Thursday. Despite this new challenge, the programme has had its budget scaled back substantially, with an allocation of ₹12,644 crore compared to last year’s revised estimates of ₹16,978 crore.

The Economic Survey had recommended that corporate, market and crowd funding be leveraged for Swachh Bharat phase two.

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