Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the implementation of Atal Bhujal Yojna which will be commonly known as Atal Jal. Modi informed about the scheme at an in the presence of Defence minister Rajnath Singh and Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhwat. 

The Atal Bhujal Yojana, was approved by the Cabinet on 24th December 2019; with an aim to improve the groundwater table in seven critically depleted states. The states being, Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Modi said, “The Atal Jal Yojana is an important step in the direction of fulfilling the Jal Jeevan mission of water for all by 2024.”

The scheme is a centrally sponsored project undertaken and has an outlay of Rs. 6,000 Crore to be implemented over a period of five years (2020-21 to 2024-25).

An official statement stated that, “Out of the total outlay, 50% shall be in the form of World Bank loan, and be repaid by the Centre. The remaining 50% shall be through Central Assistance from budgetary support. The World Bank’s loan component and Central Assistance shall be passed on to States as Grants.”

The Prime Minister mandated Ministry of Jal Shakti to emphasize water conservation, along with which, he also urged citizens to be judicious in the use of water as the scarcity of it has led to major crisis in many states. He further said, “By establishing the Jal Shakti ministry, we have taken out water from compartmentalised approach and put it on a consolidated approach.”

The Jal Jeevan mission is aimed at providing piped drinking water to 19.5% of rural households during 2019-20 and cover all households by 2024. Currently, the government has identified 1,592 blocks in 256 districts that face a menacing water shortage. 

The implementation of the Atal Yojna is significant and need of the hour as in 2018-19, just 18.2% of rural households had access to piped water supply under the National Rural Drinking Water Mission (NRWDM), the predecessor to the Jal Jeevan mission. This is way short of the target of covering at least 35% rural households. NITI Aayog, in its report in June 2017 stated that about 600 million people faced water stress ranging from high to extreme levels. Also, about 200,000 people per year die every due to inadequate access to safe water. Based on these observations, it raised the possibility that India’s water demand will be twice it’s availability, which is concerning in the scenario of water scarcity.  

Modi’s speech was webcasted across 8,350 gram panchayats, or village-level administrative units, in 78 districts across the seven states where the Atal Bhujal Yojana will be implemented.

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