Safe, Adequate, and Sustainable Drinking Water
8th Jun, 2021
- The Alma-Ata Declaration on primary health care in 1978 identified the availability of safe water and basic sanitation as essential to achieve the ‘Health for All’ goals by 2000.
- Under the SDG6, Target 6.1 aims to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for all.
- As water has the direct impact on health, countries have pledged two targets on water under the health SDG i.e.,
- to combat water-borne diseases by 2030 (3.3)
- to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from water pollution and contamination (3.9)
Water and Health
- Although water is lifesaving, it is also a carrier of pathogens and toxic chemicals viz. Diarrheal diseases, cholera, typhoid, polio, hepatitis A & E are water-borne diseases.
- Water is necessary for personal hygiene and allows for hand hygiene which are key factors in preventing the spread of respiratory diseases and trachoma, yet to be eliminated in India.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to accelerate water goals as handwashing is the key to preventing Covid-19.
- Many vectors which transmit diseases like lymphatic filariasis, dengue, malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, etc. breed in water bodies.
- In Arsenic and Fluoride-affected areas, drinking water can expose people to these chemicals, and prolonged exposure could lead to Arsenicosis and Fluorosis.
- Safe drinking water has a positive impact on the nutritional status of children and prevents financial loss in the household and contributes to the overall economy of the country.
India's achievement in drinking water
- As of 2019, more than 93% of the population has access to basic drinking water. After the successful implementation of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Government has launched JJM to provide safe and adequate water to every household in rural areas by 2024.
- The National Health Policy-2017 recognizes access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a cross-sectoral goal and emphasizes the need to eliminate water and sanitation-related diseases.
Convergence: Health and Water
- Prioritizing water schemes in villages/blocks, where water-related disease burden is high. It would require working with the health sector to identify common health-based targets and develop an implementation plan for jointly agreed target areas.
- Strengthening current operation and management of water schemes by introducing a systematic risk assessment and risk management approach.
- Developing surveillance of drinking water quality by an independent agency. The water quality surveillance system would serve for data analysis on water quality trends in a particular area; it can be also linked with the disease surveillance system for analysis of water-related diseases and using the evidence for policy action.
- Safe water is critical for preventing diseases and sustaining the elimination of diseases from the country.
- The nexus between water and health is clear hence, there is an urgent need to change the way we work by converging with health to produce maximum health benefits from Jal Jeevan Mission.
- The need to have health-based targets for water and institute a proactive and preventive approach with the participation of the community and local government to ensure safety, availability, and sustainability of drinking water.