Over 25% of rural habitations facing drinking water scarcity: agriculture minister

Singh says centre, state govts taking steps like repair and restoration of hand pumps, deepening borewells and running temporary piped water schemes to supply water in scarce areas


Presently, of the 1.71 million rural habitations in the country 441,390 are facing drinking water scarcity. Photo: AFP
Presently, of the 1.71 million rural habitations in the country 441,390 are facing drinking water scarcity. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Successive years of poor rainfall have impacted the drinking water situation and more than 25% of rural habitations in India are facing a scarcity, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Saturday.

According to Singh, centre and state governments are taking steps like repair and restoration of hand pumps, deepening borewells and running temporary piped water schemes to supply water in scarce areas. Presently, of the 1.71 million rural habitations in the country 441,390 are facing drinking water scarcity.

A statement by Singh added that tankers are supplying water in 15,345 habitations and governments have hired 13,372 private borewells to augment water supply in addition to repairing 738,650 handpumps. The minister further said that the centre has released Rs.820 crore to states to supply water in drought affected districts.

Water storage level in the week ended 21 April was 22% of total capacity of India’s reservoirs. At the same time last year, reservoirs were 65% full. The average over the last 10 years was 76%.

Depleting reservoirs and falling groundwater table has led to an acute water shortage in several states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan, where the Indian Railways were enlisted to supply water by trains.

The centre has ensured that all drought affected states implement the National Food Security Act which entitles subsidised foodgrains for 75% of rural population, Singh said in his statement. In the past one year number of states implementing the act has gone up from 11 to 33.

In 2015, as many as eleven states declared a drought after June to September south west monsoon recorded a deficit of 14% compared to the long period average. The deficit in 2015 was preceded by a 12% deficit the year before. The four month monsoon is critical as over half of India’s crop area is rain-fed.

Listing other measures taken by the centre to counter the effects of drought Singh said that states have been provided an assistance of Rs.10,275 to compensate farmers for loss of crops. In addition, Rs.15,000 crore of loans were restructured and Rs.13,000 crore of insurance claims are being settled.

Singh further said through the rural employment guarantee scheme, the government has provided 235 crore man days of work in 2015-16, the highest in five years. The centre also spent Rs.42,254 crore for the scheme, the highest ever for the scheme, he added.

In 2016-17 the scheme has a corpus of Rs.38,500 crore but this will be augmented based on demand from states, the minister said, adding, “the (rural development) ministry directed all states to maintain the tempo of work from April to June, especially in drought affected regions.”