Indians Have the Worst Access to Safe Drinking Water in the World

by Vibhuti Agarwal, originally posted on March 22, 2016


India has the highest number of people in the world without access to safe water, a report released to mark World Water Day showed Tuesday.

The country has 75.8 million people, at least 5% of its 1.25 billion population, without access to clean water, the report by WaterAid, a water and sanitation nonprofit headquartered in London, says.

The majority of those people come from impoverished communities–living on around $4.31 a day–and are forced to collect dirty water from open ponds and rivers or spend most of what they earn buying water from tankers, the report  says.

“If they have the opportunity to buy water from a tanker it can cost 1 rupee ($0.015) per liter, sometimes double if supplies are scarce,” the report, “Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water 2016,” says.

India’s water bill is low compared with Papua New Guinea, which has been ranked the most difficult and expensive place in the world to access clean water, forcing the poor to spend more than half their income on this essential resource. In Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, it costs a person $2.63, almost 54% of a day’s earning of $5.15, to buy the recommended minimum 50 liters of water from a delivery service, the report states. The report didn’t give an income percentage for India

In Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo, the cost of buying 50 liters of water from a truck is $0.72, nearly 45% of a person’s daily pay of $1.58, while in Ghana’s capital Accra, the cost of water is $0.64, which is 25% of daily income of $2.57.

The study blames worldwide “chronic underfunding” of vital water resources , “government’s inability to prioritize clean water” and “social exclusion” of the poorest people for lack of access to safe water.

In India, aquifers, or underground water, provide 85% of drinking water, but levels are falling in 56% of the country, the report says. “Hand pumps are exacerbating the crisis in many areas by depleting shallow aquifers.”

Consequently, millions of people get insufficient or poor-quality water. In India, about 140,000 children die from diarrheal diseases each year, after using dirty water, the report says.

After India, China holds the second spot for the number of people without access to clean water, with about 63 million. India’s other neighbors – Bangladesh and Pakistan – fare better – positioned 8th and 10th in the water rankings.

Among the nations which have made the greatest improvement in increasing access to safe water is Sri Lanka, ranked 19 out of 20, providing water to 95.6% of its population compared with 79.7% in 2000, while Afghanistan is ranked 7th, with 55.3% of its population, having safe drinking water, up from 30.3% in 2000, according to the report.


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