Over 40% population has no proper drinking water supply across J&K

Over 43 percent of J&K habitations have erratic or no piped water supply, making people living in these areas depend on open sources of water, often contaminated, putting their lives at risk as per Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS).
In J&K, only 56.2 percent of habitations are fully covered by a water supply schemes as per 2017 J&K state profile data by Ministry of Water and Sanitation. With 15,958 habitations in J&K, the data shows that more than 7000 habitations, 43.8 of the total, have incomplete coverage by a water supply scheme, or none at all. Although MDWS states that more than 90 percent of people in J&K have “some access” to supplied water, only 28.5 percent have a household connection.
These revelations are also vetted in a report on status of drinking water in states of India compiled by National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), government of India. As per this report, in J&K, of the 2015088 households, only 63.9 percent have access to tap water. That leaves over 727446 households without piped water, forcing them to depend on other sources of water such as streams, nallahs, springs and ground water pumped through open and closed wells, as per NITI Aayog.
A source in the Public Health Engineering Department (PHE) said that although a huge proportion of population still has to source water from water bodies and ground, those who do have access to supplied water are also at risk. “In Kashmir valley, inadequate sewage disposal and water treatment facility are primary cause of waterborne infectious diseases” a study titled Evaluation of Coliform in Tap Water of Forty one Towns of Ten Districts of Kashmir Valley reveals.
Dr SM Kadri, state surveillance officer, Integrated Diseases Surveillance Program (IDSP), and who is co-author of the study said that quality drinking water in Kashmir has been found to be “poor”. IDSP is mandated with testing the safety of water in Kashmir and is equipped with a public health lab in Srinagar.
“We, with the help of chief medical officers of the district concerned regularly lift and test water samples and provide an independent assessment of its quality. Faecal contamination in water is very common,” he said.
A PHE official wishing anonymity said, “The rickety apparatus for water testing, and poor state of existing water supply schemes was resulting in poor quality of drinking water in Kashmir.”
He added that in many areas of Kashmir, especially the rural ones, water was supplied through pumping stations that neither had a filtration plant, nor a reservoir. “The water is just lifted and pumped, without any treatment. That (absence of reservoir and filtration plant) has a huge bearing on the water quality,” he said.
In view of the weak infrastructure for water testing in Kashmir, Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Sham Lal Chaudhary, had last year announced that the existing laboratories would be strengthened and six advanced water testing laboratories be established. However, a year on, there is no progress on these laboratories, an official in PHE said.
Currently, there are 10 district level laboratories in state, which Chief Engineer PHE, Abdul Wahid Zargar said were “fully functional”. He claimed that at sub-division level also, 14 labs were fully functional and 25 are partially functional. “These (partially functional labs) are to be equipped with chemicals and apparatus which will be procured soon,” he said.
He further said that the work on state level laboratory was on.
On being asked about the frequent outbreaks of waterborne diseases in Kashmir, he said, “Many people consume untreated water or that from nallahs. The diseases can be attributed to that,” he said.