Training the rural workforce in water management could create jobs and ensure water security

Gurgaon: Central government water programs emphasize community groundwater management in a decentralized manner but, on the whole, these programs are silent on the availability, training and deployment of a hand – skilled labor for this task, especially in rural areas.

Water management at the most decentralized local levels is often a part-time, voluntary or unpaid activity. It does not help cultivate water security, or cultivate meaningful livelihoods to manage precious water resources, according to an analysis by global research organization the JustJobs Network, with Arghyam, based in Bengaluru, which works for safe and sustainable water.

More than 80% of India’s urban and rural domestic water supplies are served by groundwater. India has 18% of the world’s population, but only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources on its territory. More than 250 of 700 districts have ‘critical’ or ‘overexploited’ groundwater levels, according to the most recent Central Ground Water Board Data from 2017.

There are several water supply and management programs in India, with the aim of ensuring water security in villages, including one for supplying good quality piped water to villages through the Mission Jal Jeevan (JJM), for groundwater management through Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABhY) and for water and sanitation under the Swach Bharat Mission (SBM).

Workers in these programs must be from the community, have scientific knowledge of ground and surface water, have the skills to help their community plan water use based on its availability, and build, operate and maintaining structures and systems to ensure water security. .

Rural unemployment was 8.35% in February 2022, according to Data from the Indian Economy Monitoring Centre. On World Water Day, our story highlights the urgent need to train and upskill local workers in water management to meet the challenges of managing limited resources. . This can help India solve two crises; greater water insecurity as resources are depleted, especially with a warming climate; and the second a lack of gainful employment for the country’s large working population.

JustJobs’ Jal Kaushal project, supported by Arghyam, attempts to map the landscape of rural water commons management, jobs and skills at village, district and state levels. With no government agency tasked with mapping this skills gap or creating jobs for water management, training or employing frontline workers, Jal Kaushal also hopes to create an action plan. for water security through sustainable livelihoods and skills.

India is the largest user of groundwater in the world, attracting 25% of global groundwater. Water security is critical to India’s continued socio-economic development. Almost 62% of India’s irrigated agriculture depends on groundwater, while some 85% of rural India’s drinking water supply depends on groundwater. Groundwater, important for both vital activities and livelihoods, is a common resource and requires proper conservation and management.

Qualified frontline managers for water-secure villages

Indian villages are served by surface water sources such as rivers, ponds, lakes and ground water sources such as wells, tube wells, boreholes, piped water via boreholes and hand pumps.

There are multiple government agencies and programs on water, which often do not have convergence on the ground. Additionally, many of these systems recognize the need for a qualified water cadre for effective and efficient implementation of the systems, but most of the systems are silent on how to ensure availability. of this qualified framework.

We contacted the Ministry of Rural Development and the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation on Thursday March 17, but received no response from them. The story will be updated when we receive a response.

Description of government water projects and their components

Source: Convergence and co-financing opportunities for climate-resilient water management,
report of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Even though there could be an estimated cadre of 500,000 to 1 million qualified people in the country (assuming at least 2-3 people per village have been trained) to undertake various water-related activities, these workers are largely invisible and they have no job security beyond the duration of the program.

Moreover, there is no data at the village, gram panchayat or district level of this qualified cadre, nor is there a mapping of the skills required for proper water management. Each time a new program is launched, new staff members are trained, resulting in a multiplicity of efforts. There is also insufficient data to understand the effectiveness, sustainability and gap between supply and demand of all these people working on rural water issues.

Ensure productive jobs for qualified cadres for rural water security

Through these government programs and civil society initiatives, community members receive sporadic training and engage on a voluntary basis on aspects of water management in the village. The tasks and responsibilities of these skilled workers range from a well digger, mason or plumber for laying and maintaining pipes, pump operator, bhujal jankaars as para-hydrologists, jal sahelis responsible for the desalination of the basins, sevaks of dhara for the management of spring sheds and other community resource persons.

But even in the flagship programs, the tasks of these qualified staff are not defined as “roles and responsibilities” and there is no clear mobilization, development and associated remuneration, an analysis of the orientations of the Mission Jal Jeevan and the Atal Bhujal Yojana To display. Consequently, even if civil society groups mobilize and train these workers, they must maintain their interest in undertaking water management without a path to income and professional advancement.

There have been some attempts to integrate qualified managers through “full-time jobs” such as Jal Surakshak in Maharashtra, who were trained and certified monitor the groundwater situation and manage water level measurement instruments, well identification and digital information sharing with the Groundwater Exploration and Development Agency (GSDA) at different block and district headquarters.

Through livelihood missions such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) and State Rural Livelihoods Missions (SRLM), workers were engaged at the village level for the construction, operation and maintenance of waterworks on a contract basis. Swacchagrahis and Accredited Social Health Activists (ACHA), are engaged in water quality control, in addition to the other tasks they perform, either part-time or on an incentive basis.

In a few states, traditional water manager jobs such as kollalus in Garhwaland chow kids in the Kumaon hills of Uttaranchal, or havaldar, jagliyas Where patkaris in Maharashtra, have been “formalised” with defined roles, responsibilities and remuneration. However, despite the efforts made in the direction of “job creation”, most community resource persons continue to volunteer or shramdan [donation of labour] based.

Government-formed sub-committees, such as Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSC) and Water user associations (WUA) at the gram panchayat level, should play an important role in ensuring proper planning and implementation of water management. However, the capacity of these bodies is insufficient and they often require hand-in, for example for tasks such as mapping water resources and even holding regular meetings, other non-profit groups or the civil society, JustJobs Network researchers found in conversations with nonprofit organizations. working on water management.

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