Month: May 2023

What the Jal Jeevan Mission must focus on to fix urban water supply

The 2021-22 Union Budget announced the launch of the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban), an ambitious project that aims to provide potable tap water supply to 2.86 crore households by Urban India is fast hurtling towards a major water crisis in the years to come. A 2020 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has projected that 30 Indian cities will face a ‘grave water risk’ by 2050 due to overcrowding in cities.

Niti Aayog report too had predicted that 21 Indian cities including New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020 affecting 100 million people.

Major water concerns in urban areas

Taps run dry in majority of the cities

As high as 31 percent of urban households in cities, mostly those who live in unauthorised colonies and slums, do not have access to piped water or public tap water and even the existing taps run dry for most of the time. And what’s more – most Indian cities cannot even meet the per capita water supply requirements of 135 litres per day as specified by the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation!

Increasingly unable to meet the 24×7 water supply needs of the population, the public supply infrastructure continues to be marred with challenges such as ageing infrastructure, lack of operation and maintenance, low pressure in the pipes and poor revenue mobilisation mechanisms.

Photo courtesy: Honors College

How will this work out for urban India? This lack of availability of piped water supply and over dependence on wells and borewells to compensate for the gap in water supply has led to over exploitation of groundwater resources in many cities. As high as 48% of India’s urban water supply comes from groundwater, and in seven of India’s 10 most populous cities, groundwater levels have dropped dangerously over the past two decades.

Mismanagement of water adds to the water woes

Glaring mismanagement of water in cities leaves even the water rich areas starved for water. For example, a recent analysis shows that abundance of groundwater availability in the top five cities like Ludhiana, Amritsar, Rajkot, and Vishakhapatnam does not help its residents due to increase in population and inefficient management and allocation of the available water. Bottom five cities in terms of groundwater availability include cities such as Chennai, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Dhanbad, and Ghaziabad. Water cuts across administrative boundaries makes some states  dependent on neighbouring states for water leading to water disputes.

Another working paper on the state of water in six Indian cities conducted by the Kubernein Initiative finds that in Chennai and Bengaluru, water resources are overworked and overused, not adequately replenished, and recharge areas have been destroyed due to construction and concretisation. Mumbai and Kolkata, although not water scarce, continue to face water stress due to unequal distribution of water, over dependence on monsoon and over consumption of water.

Read more: Can individual water metering help Indian cities avoid Doomsday?

For example, while Kolkata has water hydrants to cater to the needs of the poor, they are the largest culprits of wastage in the city. The informal settlements in Mumbai suffer hugely due to lack of access to water connections while Delhi being naturally water scarce has to depend on neighbouring states for its water supply.

The working paper informs that most cities in India have poorly laid-out infrastructure plans and fluctuations in water availability increase dependence on groundwater that is depleting at dangerous levels.

Besides this, lack of proper disposal and treatment of sewage is a common problem in cities that not only leads to choking of drains and flooding, but also leads to poor quality of water due to contamination and mixing of sewage with drinking water. Besides other competing water needs, agricultural activity in the periphery of many cities also in constant battle with urban management over the sharing of water resources.

Only about 35 percent of wastewater is treated in India and the use of treated wastewater for non potable uses at the household is still largely lacking because of strong stigma associated with using treated wastewater.

The available water is of poor quality

In urban India, 50 million people in 15 cities have no access to safe, affordable drinking water, reveals a UNICEF India report. Since piped water is inadequate in most of the cases, drinking water in cities is often procured from a variety of sources such as borewells, private wells, tankers or bottled water. But very little information exists on the quality of this water that is made available to the people.

And this water from major sources like tube wells and hand pumps is also found to be unsafe as they are known to be carriers of waterborne diseases. Even where piped water is available, its quality continues to be questionable. A large proportion of people do not have access to water within the house, increasing the chances of infections.

Photo courtesy : Made For minds

Surface water sources too are highly contaminated in India. Poor sewage disposal mechanisms lead to most of the untreated sewage being drained into rivers and lakes that serve as reservoirs of microbial contamination. Poor access to safe water sources and toilets and open defecation and poor WASH practices lead to high instances of waterborne diseases in the country.

Release of untreated industrial and pharmaceutical wastes into the surface water sources has led to dangerous levels of organic and inorganic pollutants into the surface water bodies in India, making it unfit for consumption.

Read more: Kolkata’s ignored groundwater crisis could lead to much more than just water shortage

Groundwater resources in the country have also been found to be highly polluted due to presence of fluoride, arsenic, nitrates, iron, heavy metals as well as due to leaching of harmful pesticide and fertiliser residues. Toxins from untreated industrial wastes and landfills as well as bacterial contaminants from the surface soil and water sources can also contaminate groundwater. Even bottled water in India continues to be unsafe for consumption.

Key points emerging from these studies

  • Accessibility of water for low income communities in many of the cities continues to be a problem and needs to be addressed as these communities form an important section of the population in cities.
  • Most Indian cities do not segregate and process grey and black water discharges. A large part of wastewater is discharged into unlined stormwater channels, which leads to contamination of the  groundwater.
  • Poor water quality continues to plague most of the Indian cities
  • The water infrastructure in cities is outdated and is unable to accommodate the different levels of water, store it for future use and augment supply with alternative sources.
  • Rampant development in all these cities continues to threaten natural habitats and water bodies that help in water conservation and flood prevention, such as marshlands, wetlands, floodplains, embankments and others.
  • Lack of data and outdated infrastructure leads to huge water losses. Excessive emphasis on supply side solutions to procure water leads to poor attention being paid to demand management and exploration of alternatives
  • Lack of coordinated efforts at the policy level hinder progress

What needs to be done for the long term success of JJM?

The studies and recent analysis recommend that the strategy to meet the water crisis in urban areas should be based on the following steps:

Neerain is proud to republish this article for spreading awareness about situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.

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AuthorAarti Kelkar Khambete

Publish On: August 5, 2021

Green Building: From the Romantic to the Necessary

The history of architectural discourse in the last few decades in South Asia, is replete with references to many architects who in their buildings espoused a sustainable or an ecological sensitive approach to their design. These handful of architects have been a source of reference and inspiration for generation of architects and in their own small ways many new generation of practices continue this great traditions. However most such practices are “boutique” in nature and very few have the impact at larger scale and volumes. So the pursuit of the “green” often ends up being a private indulgence of a few thereby resulting in sidelining of the larger issue of sustainable development.

Photo courtesy: Re-thinking the future

The climate crisis is perhaps the single most important moment in history in recent times and it would demand new ways of imagination and practice. The two areas that will need a lot of attention would be architectural education and building bye laws. For example the question of green buildings or sustainable development cannot be now limited to a few courses “environment and ecology” but will need to have an overarching effect on all the courses that are taught. The aim should be to inculcate a “habit” amongst young students of thinking about sustainability. One might begin by asking tough questions such as “Do we really need to built? Or can I not reuse an existing rather than built?” And how does one structure studio courses or even construction courses so that working with less and being sensitive to environment almost becomes second nature to students. There is a lot of possibility to relook at both curriculum and pedagogy in architectural schools.

Photo courtesy:

Whereas we do find many architectural graduate enter the world of practice with idealism in their eyes, but soon they surrender themselves to the demands of the practice that caters to new development. In the absence of effective bye- laws that incentivise green building, it is impossible to have any major impact on the climate and the question of sustainability will remain a lip service. Building material energy ratings, predictive models for estimating energy consumption in proposed buildings would be the first step towards incorporating the same in building blue laws. This would need a major redesign of building bye laws and its implementation. However, one may begin from offering tax waivers to properties that demonstrate sustainable construction practices. A good simple manual for architects and builders can be the first step in this direction. But perhaps a real beginning can and should be made in all the construction undertaken by government departments and local bodies. These can then become role models examples of “green buildings” for the rest of the architects and developer community to emulate.

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Author:  Prof. Pratyush Shankar

Publish On: February 2023


RO water consumers at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency

VADODARA: Vegetarians, people with unnatural dark complexion and those who consume purified water through reverse osmosis (RO) systems are more likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.


Photo courtesy: Time Of India

A study conducted at SSG Hospital has found this. The study has revealed that RO water consumption is an emerging risk factor for vitamin B12 deficiency, as cobalt, an essential component of vitamin B12, gets removed through the RO system.

For the study, 160 patients with B12 deficiency and 160 patients with B12 within normal limit were included.
“It was a case control study in which all the patients visiting our hospital with symptoms suggestive of B12 deficiency and serum B12 level below 200 pg/ml were included. At the same time, patients coming to our department and found to be having serum vitamin B12 level above 200 pg/ml were also included in the study as controlled group,” said Dr Sangita V Patel, additional professor at Department of Community Medicine of Baroda Medical College.

Patel had guided the study that was carried out by Dr Alpesh Makwana with the help of physicians Dr Archana Gandhi and Dr Vipul Bhavsar.

The team carried out multivariate analysis to ascertain risk factors affecting Vitamin B12 deficiency using logistic regression model.

“We identified RO water being used for drinking purpose to be a major risk factor affecting Vitamin B12 deficiency. Those having vegetarian diet and unnatural dark complexion or unnatural change in skin color were also at high risk of developing the deficiency,” she said.
Those who used RO water for drinking experienced 3.61 higher odds of vitamin B12 deficiency compared to controls. Similarly, those with dark complexion had 2.53 higher chances of vitamin B12 deficiencies as compared to the controls and those who were vegetarian had 2.007 higher odds of vitamin B12 deficiencies as compared to the controls.

“Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient required for various bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells, DNA synthesis and nerve function,” she said.

The study states that there are three reasons behind adverse health effects of consuming demineralised water.

While the RO system removes cobalt, an essential component of vitamin B12, resulting in B12 deficiency, the reduced absorption of vitamin B12 available in diet due to low mineralized water causes chronic atrophic gastritis.


“Additionally, the RO system also removes microorganisms responsible for endogenous production of vitamin B12 directly or indirectly. The longer the duration of RO water consumption, the more likely the possibility of developing vitamin B12 deficiency,” the study states.


Doctors said that meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are good dietary sources of vitamin B12. “However, vegans who avoid consuming even milk and milk products and vegetarians are at a higher risk of developing the deficiency as plant-based sources of vitamin B12 are limited,” she said.


She said that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause unnatural skin darkening and even hyperpigmentation. “The unnatural darkening of the skin or in some cases, hyperpigmentation is caused due to excess melanin production as vitamin B12 deficiency interferes with the melanin production in the body. So, if your skin appears unnaturally dark or dull it indicates that you have be suffering from vitamin deficiency,” she said.


“At the same time, pigmentary changes in the form of pigmentation of knuckles, oral mucosa, and Addisonian pigmentation have also been described in Vitamin B12 deficiency,” she added.


Neerain is proud to republish this article for spreading awareness about situation of water, for our stakeholders. Credit whatsoever goes to the Author.


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Author: Prashant Rupera


Publish On: April 20, 2023.