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Status of Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

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Published: 5th Nov, 2020

Status of Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
  • The quality of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has significant impact on improving the health outcome and ameliorating the economic condition of rural masses. Especially, the present worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has strongly demonstrated the critical role of sanitation, hygiene and access to clean water in protecting human health by preventing and containing diseases.
  • At the central level, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation under the Ministry of Jal Shakti is the nodal agency responsible for policy planning, funding and coordination of programs for safe drinking water and sanitation in rural areas.
  • Presently, it has been assigned the responsibility of two key schemes of the Government: (i) Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G), and (ii) the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM).

Status of Safe Drinking Water

  • Though the rural-urban inequality in the access to safe drinking water has narrowed down tremendously from 26% in 1991 to nearly9% in 2011, yet still it is quite high.

Status of Rural Sanitation

  • As per the baseline survey conducted by Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, in October 2014, about 55 crore people resorted to open defecating in rural areas, meaning thereby that nearly 61 percent rural population lacked basic sanitation facilities.

Government Expenditure on Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation

  • Total expenditure of government on rural drinking water and sanitation which was to the tune of 10,565 crores in 2010-11, went up to Rs. 21,494 crore in 2020-21, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 6.67 percent.

Economic and Health Effects

  • Due to the lack of proper sanitation in the country, more than 30 million people suffer from waterborne diseases leading to a huge loss of around 73 million working days every year. The resulting economic cost is estimated over 6 percent of GDP each year, as per World Bank estimates. The quality of life of rural people can be substantially improved by improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Government Initiatives

  • Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) achieved a historic milestone when all the villages and Gram Panchayats of the country, after constructing over 100 million toilets in rural India, declared themselves open-defecation free on 2nd October 2019, the day coinciding with 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • To ensure that the open defecation free behaviour is sustained, no one is left behind and waste management facilities are accessible in all villages; Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen)-Phase II commenced with effect from 19th February, 2020. Phase-II of SBM-G is just a shift from ODF to ODF Plus.

Challenges and Future Initiatives

  • The per capita annual water availability is estimated to decline further to 1,486 cubic meters by 2021. If the current trends in the demand and supply of water continue, then soon India is likely to become a water-scarce country. This will have serious implications for the sustainability of agriculture, food security, livelihoods, rural sanitation and sustainable growth.
  • For making India a water secure nation, especially the rural regions of the country, a lot of challenges are needed to be addressed from both, the demand as well as the supply side of water. From the demand side, population pressures, changing cropping pattern, high rate of urbanization, rapid industrialization and issues relating to climate change are needed to be urgently addressed. On the supply side, proper conservation, storage and distribution of water is needed to be prioritized. Increased public investment for the creation of potable water infrastructure is also required.
  • Over exploitation and contamination of ground water is a concern. In this context, necessary technology interventions are needed for the treatment and removal of contaminants and promote the re-use of water. Proper water resource management, revival of aquifers and traditional rainwater harvesting structures with the active participation of local communities and NGOs also need to be promoted.
  • Last but not least, public awareness regarding the rational use of water and change in the attitude of people towards sanitation need to be promoted through information, education and communication.

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