New Delhi: Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed $240 million loans for providing safe and sustainable drinking water to about 1.65 million people in three districts of the state of West Bengal affected by arsenic, fluoride, and salinity.
The signatories to the West Bengal Drinking Water Sector Improvement Project were Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary (Fund Bank and ADB), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, who signed for the Government of India; and Mr. Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission, who signed for ADB.
Heavy reliance on groundwater puts most of the rural population in West Bengal at risk from arsenic and fluoride contamination that can lead to health problems including cancer and bone diseases. The project aims to mitigate these risks through the provision of continuous potable water through metered connections to about 390,000 individual households in three districts – Bankura, North 24 Parganas, and Purba Medinipur.
“The project addresses the concerns relating to excessive use of groundwater to sustainable surface water based piped schemes,” said Khare. “This will help mitigate the health risks from using groundwater with elevated levels of arsenic and fluoride.”
Yokoyama said, “Besides reducing the burden of diseases from contaminated groundwater, the project will promote higher service levels compared with rural schemes in India with individual household connections and district metering area based metered continuous water supply, and use of advanced technology for smart water management.”
The project is supported by a grant of $3 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, financed by the Government of Japan, and a $2 million grant from ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund. This will support the state government in strengthening its smart water management system, improve flood-related early warning and response, and provide training on operation and maintenance as well as climate change and disaster resilience.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totalled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in co-financing.