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  • Writer's pictureStambh Organization

Clean water and sanitation problems in India

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

With 1.39 billion people, India ranks as the world's second-most populous country. The extent of the need in India is enormous, making it the global water and sanitation crisis's focal point. Open defecation is practised by around 26% of India's population, and it is a major contributor to water-borne sickness, stunting, and death. Millions of people in India and throughout the world are battling the COVID-19 pandemic while also coping with a lack of safe drinking water. Access to safe water is more important than ever for Indian families' health. In 2020, over half of the world's population will lack access to safe drinking water, and roughly a quarter of the world's population will lack access to safe sanitation COVID-19 has brought attention to the important need for everyone to have access to good hand hygiene. At the start of the epidemic, three out of ten individuals in the world were unable to wash their hands with soap and water in their own homes. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said “ Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of covid-19 and other infectious diseases, yet millions of people across the world lack access to a reliable, safe supply of water. Investment in water, sanitation and hygiene must be a global priority if we are to end this pandemic and build more resilient health systems”. A secure and safe water supply is the foundation of a strong economy, but it is grossly undervalued globally. In India, it is estimated that water-borne infections cost the country almost USD 600 million each year. It gives an economic burden on the country. This is particularly true, in drought-and-flood-prone areas, which have affected a third of the country in recent years. In India, less than half of the population has access to properly managed drinking water.

Chemical contamination of water is found in 1.96 million homes, primarily due to fluoride and arsenic. According to the World Health Organization, excess fluoride in India could be impacting tens of millions of people across 19 states, while excess arsenic could be affecting up to 15million people in West Bengal. Furthermore, serious water scarcity affects two-thirds of India’s 718 districts, and the existing lack of planning for water safety and security is a big worry. One of the major issues is the rapid depletion of groundwater in India, which is known as the world’s greatest user of this resource due to the widespread use of drilling in recent decades. In rural areas, groundwater from over 30 million access points provides 85% of drinking water and 48%of water requirements in urban areas. About an 844million people on Earth do still not have access to basic water supplies and 79% of them are rural residents. To address physiological and hygienic demands, a person needs 50 to 100 litres of water every day. People who are limited to 20 litres per capita per day will be at risk of serious health problems. Rural populations typically have poorer economic situations than city dwellers, which has an impact on the amount of water consumed. Rural areas housed eight out of ten persons without access to basic water services. As a result, rural areas provide the greatest obstacle in the attempt to supply safe drinking water to everyone. Meanwhile, sanitation facilities were available to 62% of the world’s urban population but just 44% of the rural population. Emerging data on menstruation health shows that a considerable proportion of women and girls in many countries are unable to achieve their monthly health needs, with significant gaps among vulnerable populations such as the poor and those with disabilities. In India, more than 140,000 children under the age of five die each year as a result of diarrhoea caused by contaminated water and poor sanitation. Going outside to defecate is also humiliating, unpleasant, and dirty, and it puts women and girls at risk of harassment and abuse. Lack of access to poor sanitation is a leading risk factor for infectious diseases, including cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. It also exacerbates malnutrition, and in particular, childhood stunting.


Despite the importance of water in an Indian's life, knowledge about how to handle it and make the best use of it is lacking. The essential rights to clean and accessible water are emphasized in the Indian constitution (article 47) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 31)torecognise human dignity. Since Independence, India’s national and state governments have undertaken a variety of integrated drinking water delivery programs to meet the country's residents' water needs. Citizens generally believe that water is a free commodity or common property and that the government is the service provider. It expects the government to take more responsibility for delivery concerns while abdicating its citizens place a lower importance on accountability and engagement, which makes it difficult to use water sustainably. Water resources must be safeguarded, supplemented, and carefully managed to ensure their long-term viability. Individual practices play a significant effect in determining water quality. Pollution from both point and non-point sources have an impact on water quality. Sewage discharge, industrial discharge, agricultural non-off, and urban run-off are all examples. Flood and droughts can wreak havoc on water quality, as can a lack of knowledge and education among users. The importance of user participation in water quality maintenance, as well as consideration of other factors such as hygiene, environmental sanitation, storage and disposal, are key considerations in sustaining the quality of water resources.

About The Author

Shweta Kumari

Research Intern

The Stambh Organaization,India

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