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Water and Sanitation in India

Water and Sanitation in India – by Pravin Nair

India faces a turbulent water future. The current water development and management system is not sustainable: unless dramatic changes are made – and made soon – in the way in which government manages water, India will have neither the cash to maintain and build new infrastructure, nor the water required for the economy and for people.

None of the 35 Indian cities with a population of more than one million distribute water for more than a few hours per day, despite generally sufficient infrastructure. Owing to inadequate pressure people struggle to collect water even when it is available. According to the World Bank, none have performance indicators that compare with average international standards. A 2007 study by the Asian Development Bank showed that in 20 cities the average duration of supply was only 4.3 hours per day. No city had continuous supply. The longest duration of supply was 12 hours per day in Chandigarh, and the lowest was 0.3 hours per day in Rajkot.

There are regions of India that can benefit greatly from increased investment in water infrastructure, of all scales. India can still store only relatively small quantities of its fickle rainfall. Whereas arid rich countries (such as the United States and Australia) have built over 5000 cubic meters of water storage per capita, and middle-income countries like South Africa, Mexico, Morocco and China can store about 1000 cubic meters per capita, India’s dams can store only 200 cubic meters per person. India can store only about 30 days of rainfall, compared to 900 days in major river basins in arid areas of developed countries. A compounding factor is that there is every indication that the need for storage will grow because global climate change is going to have major impacts in India – there is likely to be rapid glacial melting in coming decades in the western Himalayas, and increased variability of rainfall in large parts of the subcontinent.

The problems of a developing India, however, are not limited to providing adequate quantities of water. Growing populations, cities and industries are putting great stress on the aquatic environment. Many rivers – even very large ones – have turned into fetid sewers. India’s cities and industries need to use water more effectively, and there will have to be massive investments in sewers and wastewater treatment plants.

The lack of adequate sanitation and safe water has significant negative health impacts.The World Bank estimates 21% of communicable diseases in India are water related. Of these diseases, diarrhoea alone killed over 700,000 Indians in 1999 (estimated) – over 1,600 deaths each day. The highest mortality from diarrhoea is in children under the age of five.

A recent joint monitoring report prepared by the World Health Organisation and Unicef found that out of the 1.2 billion people around the world who are forced to defecate in the open, half live in India. An estimated 665 million Indians, one in every two, lack access to a toilet. That is not a pleasant statistic. Yet, few Indians would challenge it, as the embarrassing evidence is before our eyes everywhere we look.

1. India’s Water Economy: Bracing for a Turbulent Future
2. The toilet test: India urgently needs a Sanitation Act
3. Water supply and sanitation in India.
4. Is the water pure? Punjab villages need filtration plants

Categories: Viewer Speaks
  1. February 24, 2012 at 10:52 am

    maybe next world war on water resources..???
    we ourselves are making Mother earth as Dustbin,
    Disposables lifestyle is polluting the environment.

  2. ravi
    January 31, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    i m unable to understand what u want to say n what u want to do

  3. January 21, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Water contains chlorine, ecoli and other bacteria, suspended impurities, toxic chemicals and more. I watched a TV documentary where children were born with cleft lips and other deformities due to impure drinking water. The best method recommended to purify it is boiling (continue boiling three minutes after the boiling point is reached) and filtering.

    • January 21, 2011 at 8:29 am

      Under INDIA Redefined Clean India Projects, let us try to take this up. Only awareness and spreading this is required. We can make a banner of this in our March for Happy India – Ranjana

    • June 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

      “Don’t leave governance to the people who are not our representatives, don’t leave Policy to the people who do not feel they are accountable to us, and don’t leave all the other problems like literacy, slums, environment etc to NGOs and social workers who struggle without Citizen’s support”

      Best Humanitarian Initiative 2009 award winner INDIA Redefined is a non political Citizen’s Empowerment movement has brought together common people working for the country on one platform. The mission is to empower citizens of India by bringing about a behavioural change in the masses towards discharging their responsibilities and exercising their rights which are constitutional, societal and social.

      All over world the Govt. sector, corporate sector, NGO sector are working but INDIA Redefined is bringing the fourth sector i.e. Common people working for country on one platform . That too in masses!. Common people till now have only come together if they are against something ; e.g All Independence movements, Movements against corruption, they have never come on one platform to work for country and then empowering themselves.

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      INDIA Redefined is asking for ISR Individual Social Responsibi

      Create an India of tomorrow which is
      · Awakened, informed and educated
      · Clean, green and sustainable
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      Empower citizens of India by bringing about a behavioral change in the masses towards discharging their Responsibilities and exercising their Rights, which are:
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  4. Babumohanan
    January 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I live in Trivandrum where we have water supply 24 hours a day and 365 days in a year. There is misuse of water as well as mismanagement. Also purity of water may not be as good as western countries. But I cannot fully agree with Pravin or Madhu. I do agree that there is till scope of improvement. But Trivandrum as well as other major cities in Kerala is a better compared to rest of India.

  5. Madhu Sasikumar
    October 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    My state Kerala is a typical example of WATER MISMANAGEMENT.As one of my friends from north commented after visiting Kerala ” Your state is either water or greenery”.

    Cotinued mismanagement by politicians as well as the buerocracy has ensured that till date a major percentage of population has limited or hardly any access to clean and safe water. The people and parties that is responsible for this sorry state even after so many years of independance should be taught a lesson. We have to make sure the coming generations do not starve of water.

  1. January 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

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