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Jal Shakti

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I write this piece after formation of Ministry of Jan Shakti by NDA 2. Possibly my inputs may assist in a thought process leading to structure formation at Ministry of JAL SHAKTI. Way back in mid nineties after leaving Air Force, I decided to start a business unit focused to augment availability of water resource for organization or my clients. I intended to use this experience to be a problem solver for habitations, wanting to stream line and thus augment availability of water. I assumed that the system suffered minor hiccups and I would be able to harness information systems for augementing the water availability. My aim was to gain experience and later date use my experience for organizations and at communities level. I do claim any superiority of knowledge but have understood grass reality. However my experience may of use to chair borne policymakers.

During my service career at every station I was posted to have complains about water shortage and regular outcry for additional water. After informal study, I found that in most of the places quantity of water supplied exceeded the demand. The reason of short fall being wastage and collusion. Wastage due to faulty taps and leaking pipes, and collusion between the local regulatory authorities, users and commercial establishments. Also unscientific system of augmenting supply. Unfortunately these conditions still exist. My analysis led me to believe that there is systemic problem in understanding of water augmentation and utilization. Sensing a business opportunity in unchartered territory and with limited amount of my financial reserves and a partner who I thought new about the subject, I ventured into water augmentation business.

My aim was to create a business unit, which under one roof could facilitate additional requirement of potable water at the optimal cost. The first step involved in water augmentation is detecting a water resource. The method used to detect water content are many, however probability level was lower in late 80s. I am with technical upgrade and greater use of remote sensing techniques. Keeping in these inputs I tried contacting government organizations like ministry of Water Resources, RITES, and other agencies based out of Dehradun, ISRO, to ascertain the water bearing zones. Even in mid eighties this information was there.

There were road blocks at all level in sharing of this information. Possibly no directives existed on sharing of data and maps for augmenting of water. Whatever input I gathered was at personal level. Interpretation of water bearing zones required sophisticated techniques. I felt that the information on national resources should be welcomed. Since I could not afford to buy this information through remote sensing agencies, I had to rely on ill equipped survey business units. They lacked in expertise and experience. The only they could offer was a letter head, which was acceptable to clients. I wonder whether in 40 years, the process of estimation of quantity and quality of water has improved. The hydrological survey also is indicative of drilling process to be used. In Delhi NCR, due to different strata conditions, different kinds of machines need to be used. The usage of correct machine for drilling process can deliver enhanced quality of water.

Next step is drilling for ground water. This involves reaching for required depth for water quantity, and identify water zones and chemical zones. Normally a casing is put in the water hole. This prevents the collapse of the strata of water hole. The casing is perforated design, allows water from water zones and/blocks the water from the chemical zone. The space in between the drilled hole and casing is filled with filter material. As I remember most of the drilling used to be undertake by contractors from South India. Following shortcuts, unscientific process and making tube wells of incorrect specifications both in depth and process were rampant. Reason, for this being collusion between users, PHED and the contractors for financial gains. Thus leading to higher failure rate and not matching the clients requirements in terms of quality and quantity of water for the desired time period. Next step is water making water potable by removing both soluble and insoluble impurities. Last step being water distribution system.

I will share an experience of water project I executed in 1988. My aim is not to belittle anybody but provide a thought process for the new ministry. The contract which I narrate will sum up the state of affairs at that time. I hope that the conditions have changed. In 1988 I was given contract for laying down hand pumps for an NGO from source detection to hand pump installation.

For the source detection, I then contacted agencies doing hydrological survey. The help from state PHED and experts of water ministry was shoddy. I then took help of department approved hydrological surveyors and water diviners. (for high magnetic density region). Unfortunately they had very basic equipment and untrained staff. They had outdated equipment. They could take  basic readings and not interpret the data. My compulsion to accept their output was more out of commercial reasons than scientific reliability.

Any  way we finalized the sites and were about to commence drilling. At that point of time there were objections from village elders about location of hand pumps. While we wanted to get the drilling done on sites selected based on survey, the village elders insisted that the location of hand pumps to be  based on caste basis Luckily for us the district level officials intervened and good compromise was reached.

Anyway I got the drilling operation started with help of drilling contractors from South India. The machines were in reasonably good condition. They could operate the machine. Since there was strata change, machines s were appropriate for limited number of sites only, we however used machines for all the sites. The drilling team comprised of worker level with no supervisory knowledge. They had no clue to strata analysis. I had also worked with supervisors of state PHED, whose role was more liaison and less technical during the drilling operation, a supervisor with scientific knowledge of Strata analysis of the strata being excavated. This information is required for casing design of deep bore-well. A correct casing design ensured that the water from desired source is allowed and blocked from crucifers having high chemical content.

Any way 100 hand pumps were installed  by the manufacturers.  To sustain the effort of my clients  (though not part of contract) I opted   to provide  local maintenance of hand pumps ,by getting the local cycle rep  trained for maintenance of hand pumps. I asked the manufacturers to send a trained their staff  to train cycle mechanics in villages, but were willing to train them at their factory. I could not send them to manufacturers place due to logistics and cost factor..I strongly feel that local level up talent must be trained for maintenance and accountability should be at village  /panchayat  /.local level. Govt agencies should not be involved with maintenance of pumps. Their role should be that of facilitators.

I visited the place a year later .You can guess what I saw .Only 20 % of hand pumps serviceable and only 10% fiving desired water output .I still feel guilty that I could not provide a durable service.

NDA 2 has taken right step in forming a new ministry. All the functions like information gathering, interpretation, supervision of actual operations, success rate, training and sanitizing stake holders  should become part the ministry. Otherwise we will hear one more slogan, like we have been hearing for the past 70 years. More so there needs to be change in mindset for making the project success.

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