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In what should be termed nothing less than a marvelous achievement for a non-metro city, Odisha’s Puri, the holy land of Lord Jagannatha, became the first city in India where people can avail high-quality drinking water directly from the tap on a 24-hour basis.

The ‘Drink From Tap’ mission aims to provide water supply adhering to “Quality Standards of IS 10500” and it will benefit the city’s 2.5- lakh population and 2 crore tourists who visit the holy place annually.

There is no need to store or filter drinking water. Only major cities in the world have such facilities.

No to plastic waste

The provision of safe drinking water will help prevent the use of three crore plastic bottles, eliminating 400 metric tonnes of plastic waste and reducing the state’s carbon footprint.

120 drinking water fountains

Puri residents, tourists and pilgrims can now drink water from taps across the city, be it at home or across the drinking water fountains.

Pilgrims will have access to 120 drinking water fountains set up by the state all along the Grand Road and other hotspots.

Technology at work

The state government is ensuring stringent quality control through technology-based, real-time surveillance.

There will be a quick response team, comprising mobile crews set up for prompt redressal of leakages, quality of water, pressure supply and other issues.

Real-time water quality will be displayed at public places by way of LCD screens to ensure public confidence and a mass shift from bottled water to tap water.

Self-help groups

Underprivileged women from self-help groups who are designated as ‘Jalsaathis‘ have been hired and trained for meter reading, revenue collection, conducting field water quality tests, and sensitising people.

Mission Drink from Tap

The scheme at Puri is part of the ambitious Mission Drink from Tap under the Sujala (pure water) scheme launched in August 2019 through WATCO (Water Corporation of Odisha). Pilot projects were launched in the capital Bhubaneswar and Puri.

The scheme seems to have been implemented first in Puri, keeping in mind its great publicity value and potential to draw more tourists. On average, Puri attracts about 2 crore tourists every year to the world-famous Jagannath Temple and its magnificent beach.

Mission Drink from Tap aims at providing water supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, each day of the year. The mission is also aimed at addressing the protection of water sources, water treatment, and the prevention of recontamination in the transmission and distribution system that is continuously full and under positive pressure throughout pipelines and networks.

The Odisha government talks of three “equitable, sustainable and people-centric” features of the scheme that have adopted “the best innovative, state-of-the-art technology and management techniques/tools” as in London, New York and Singapore.

The three highlights

The first is to provide 24X7 quality tap water to every household in urban Odisha, so that water from household taps can be directly used for drinking, without filtration or boiling, thus reducing the health risks caused by contamination from the intermittent supply.

To ensure this, water testing laboratories have been established for regular quality monitoring and surveillance on PPP mode to ensure third-party monitoring. There are centralised monitoring and tracking of preventive maintenance and complaint redressals. Consumers can log in their complaints in three languages – Odia, English and Hindi by dialling 155359.

The second is to eliminate household investments on overhead water tank/ underground reservoirs, motor pumps and RO-based water filters. The household connection is to be treated as public work and installed/maintained by plumbers who are trained, certified and empanelled (including returning migrant workers).

The challenge here is in convincing consumers that they should do away with the system of their present storage in the form of containers/drums or overhead tanks or sumps that pump water to the overhead tank. All these have contamination risks. Instead, the consumers should have faith and confidence in the reliability of the tap water that is assured all the time. They need to change their mindsets.

The third is to have 100 per cent metering of household water connections to reduce non-revenue water (NRW).

In fact, this third aspect is not publicised the way the first two are. The basic point here is that the 24X7 water supply is not free. All water connections under Mission Drink From Tap will be 100 percent metered.

Rs 250-crore revenue target

When this scheme under Sujala expands to other cities of the state, to at least 12 lakh urban dwellers, the Odisha government is targeting a revenue collection of Rs 250 crore per annum (approximately).

The rationale behind the paid water through metered pipes is “to ensure the accessibility of safe water as and when needed and bill those beyond a certain amount of usage”. Through this mechanism, the service provider intends to also curb wastage of water.

How Sujal meets Swajal

It seems that  Sujal programme from which Mission Drink from Tap flows is broadly patterned on Prime Minister’s Swajal scheme that was launched in 2018 as a pilot project in 28 states.

Swajal is a project that is designed as a demand-driven programme involving the community to provide sustainable access to safe drinking water to people in rural areas.

It is understood to be “empowering communities to plan, design, implement and monitor single village drinking water supply schemes, and organise community ownership for operation and maintenance,” mostly by women.

While Swajal claims to provide sustainable access to safe drinking water to people in rural areas, Sujal caters to the urban areas.

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