|The other option is India Marc-2/3 hand pumps that have become popular in backward countries. Designed together by the Government of India, UNICEF and WHO, India Marc-2 pumps can draw water from a depth of 50 metres or more. Water drawn from that depth is considered safe.
By Chadra Bhan Prasad, The Pioneer
It is clear that without according safe drinking water to all, India can never fight malnutrition. The poor — especially Dalits and Adivasis in the countryside and the underclass in urban slums — can’t secure safe drinking water on their own even if they have the money. Even landlords in the countryside can procure elephants and horses, but not safe drinking water.
Safe drinking water comes from various sources. The first being mineral water, which is collected from the Himalayas. There are at least three brands — TATA’s Himalayan, Vedica of Bisleri that is of Italian origin, and a third one that I can’t remember while writing this column.
A half litre Bisleri bottle costs Rs10, while a half litre bottle of Vedica costs Rs25.
As the claim goes, mineral water is collected before it enters rivers in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh that border the Himalayan range. Melting from glaciers, water travels down, touching trees, plants and soil, which have limitless mineral deposits.
Let India’s elite enjoy this segment of water — India Inc thought leaders, civil servants, NGO operatives, builders, smugglers, editors, anchors, actors, artistes, columnists, brothel owners, Rajya Sabha MPs etc.
Bottled or purified water is the second best option India can go for. Bottled water that we see in markets and roadside dhabas is filtered.
The other option is India Marc-2/3 hand pumps that have become popular in backward countries. Designed together by the Government of India, UNICEF and WHO, India Marc-2 pumps can draw water from a depth of 50 metres or more. Water drawn from that depth is considered safe.
Also can be explored are deep bore tube wells, which can extract water from a depth of 50 to 100 metres.
Another alternative could be water trains. For instance, in summers, Bhilwara district in Rajasthan receives 25 lakh litres water daily by water trains. Using these methods, water can be made available to all Indians within a decade and a half. But the question is how to transform that water into safe drinking water.
One way is through water bottling plants. The bottled water that is sold in markets is produced by water bottling/purifying plants that can be set up at a cost of Rs10 lakh for an entire village panchayat. A village panchayat can consist of one to four villages. In fact, the TATA Sons have developed a water purifying plant at a cost of Rs2 lakh. With an additional investment of Rs1 lakh on testing the ground water quality and transport, and Rs1 lakh on a silent generator, a plant can be made operational in a village panchayat at a total cost of Rs5 lakh.
Further, setting up water quality lab, accessories and staff to run the plant might need another Rs5 lakh. The plant thus can be set up at a cost of Rs10 lakh to serve one panchayat’s residents.
The water produced by this plant would cost less than 25 paisa a litre or Rs5 for a 20-litre jar! Let those willing to pay buy these jars every day. When people can walk kilometres for water, there is no reason why they can’t collect these jars within the village or in its vicinity. The households wanting jars delivered at home can pay extra for transportation.
The next question that arises is whether the Government of India and State Governments have the money to set up the plants in each village panchayat. There are about 2.65 lakh panchayats in India and setting up water bottling plants in each panchayat would require billions of rupees.
Does India have that kind of disposable money to set up and operate water plants? One way is that the plants can be run on a PPP (private-public partnership) basis.
Also, India has a few welfare programmes, which are considered wasteful — Midday Meal Scheme, food subsidy, MNREGA and Anganwadi programme. In 2012-13, India spent about Rs1.25 lakh crore on these schemes. In the last five years, India spent approximately Rs6.29 lakh crore on them, and the Government may spend a similar amount in the coming five years as well. Please make your own calculation, given the fact that Rs100 crore is Rs1 billion. Isn’t it possible to set up water purifying plants in all six lakh villages?