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Importance and Necessity of Safe Drinking Water in Indian Cities

India has the maximum number of people, 63 million, living in rural areas without access to clean water, according to a new global report released to mark World Water Day in 2017

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Water is a scarce resource and an important basic necessity for the human survival. The quantity of potable water on earth is limited and its availability per person is reducing day by day due to increase in global population and damage to the environment. Though water available in nature is free, sizeable investment and planning is needed in order to make water available to people in the desired quality and quantity on a consistent basis.

India has the maximum number of people, 63 million, living in rural areas without access to clean water, according to a new global report released to mark World Water Day in 2017.

Access of safe drinking water was declared as a human right by the United Nations but remains a challenge for urban India. Depleting ground water, lack of proper rainwater harvesting and rising contamination in the ground water due to sewage and industrial effluent discharge is posing fresh challenges for the Indian cities, especially in low-income or resettlement colonies, which are struggling to get safe and affordable water. While the affluent class depend on the purified water and packaged or bottled water, this class of consumer constitutes less than 5% of the total Indian population. As on date, over 95% of Indians still depend on free sources of water and other unreliable water sources.

According to the World Water survey, 31% of Indians had been in a situation where it was unsafe to drink water but had to consume it given no other choice and thereby suffered from water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and gastroenteritis.

According to World Resources Institute (WRI), over 100 million people in India are living in areas where water is severely polluted. In fact, of the 632 odd districts that were examined for ground water quality, only 59 districts were marked safe. The Government of India estimates that 70 per cent of available water is unfit for consumption without prior treatment. The WRI research also shows that 54 per cent of the nation is facing high to extremely high water stress and this is only bound to get worse.

Lack of safe drinking water poses many health hazards such as diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid which have seen millions of registered cases during the past 3 years. In a quest for clean drinking water, research also indicates that on an average, women and young girls spend 700 hours every year filling and carrying water for home consumption which directly affects their economic productivity.

Adequate drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene are all essential ingredients to ensure good health. The same is true for proper wastewater management, which is a basic prerequisite for environmental welfare and protection. Improving upon these services will bring economic gains while also helping to build resilience given increasing climate variability.

Safe drinking water received attention in 2014 when Mr. Modi assumed office of the Prime Minister and highlighted the need for drinking water and sanitation in India. This was followed by the launch of the Swachh Bharat initiative that added further momentum and strength to the implementation of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities in the country. With the Government of India’s emphasis on CSR spending, corporates have developed a renewed focus on safe drinking water as its significance in terms of meeting basic needs of people is clearly understood along with the fact that the social impact being delivered is unparalleled.

Many independent organizations have taken up the initiative and are tackling the problem of availability, affordability and accessibility with purity under a novel approach for rural India. One such private sector initiative is JanaJal, who install and operate safe drinking water ATMs in India. JanaJal is an integral part of the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Campaign and through support from NGOs, Charitable Foundations and Corporates have implemented some landmark award-winning community drinking water projects in the country. The company has a strong focus in Maharashtra and Delhi NCR and is rapidly installing water ATMs at railway stations, bus stands, municipal areas and places of religious sanctity.

A majority (71 per cent) of Indians said that safe drinking water had improved over the last five years. 62 per cent of the Indians believed that the government was doing enough to support access to safe drinking water. While a lot remains to be done, it is imperative that the government agencies collaborate with private sector companies to be able to deliver sustainable projects on ground that can deliver this precious resource to people in a consistent and affordable manner.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Parag Agarwal

Parag is the founder and CMD, JanaJal. Since over3 decades, Parag has borne a distinct inclination and understanding of cutting-edge technologies and their application in various fields.

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