Safe Drinking Water Still An Issue

by Kota Sriraj, originally posted on March 31, 2016


India is home to the world’s highest number of people without clean water. It is crucial for the Government to provide better management and conservation of water by concentrating on developing energy-efficient desalination plants

As water scarcity assumes serious proportions, the availability of safe drinking water too is fast becoming a mirage. The World Health Organisation states that a person needs 50 litres per day as the recommended “intermediate” quantity to maintain health, hygiene and for all domestic uses. However, currently more than 650 million people across the world do not even have basic access to the recommended quantity of water. This has had a telling impact on their health, besides adversely affecting their income and productivity.

According to the latest report published on March 21, by international NGO, WaterAid, on the state of world’s water resources, financially challenged people of the developing world are suffering the most. The lack of safe water at home requires people to buy the recommended 50 litres a day, but since most of the people survive on four dollar per day, purchasing water puts enormous strain on their meagre domestic budgets.

The report also highlights that peoples predicament is mainly due to the lack of money, dearth of political will to remedy the situation and the general inability of the Government to deliver amidst deep prevailing societal inequalities.

With more than 75 million people deprived of sufficient water, India is one of the top most countries where the highest number of people live without access to safe water. India is followed by China where more than 66 million people are living in the same condition. The aquifers in India currently cater to 85 per cent of the drinking water needs, but off late nearly 56 per cent of the country is witnessing a fall in aquifer levels.

This condition is aggravated by the rampant use of hand-pumps that are fast depleting the already shallow aquifers. These circumstances are contributing to the dwindling water resources, resulting in millions of people having no access to quality drinking water. This is also causing communities to rely on a single or distant source for drinking water, often leading to disputes and increased discrimination against the main water fetchers like women and girls.

Given this situation, the Government needs to urgently step in and provide better management and conservation of water resources. This will help people even in the remotest part of India to get access to safe drinking water. Primarily, there is an urgent need to change water consumption patterns by changing the lifestyles and behaviour of people towards this precious natural resource.

Besides this, the Government must also assign responsibilities to capable technical institutions to invent and to deploy new water conservation technologies. These techno-inventions can be theme-based, such as technology solutions for aquifer recharge or for faster wastewater recycling.

Countries such as Singapore are already moving towards excellence in wastewater recycling and are considered as leaders in developing advanced technology that cleanses wastewater for other uses, including drinking.

In its effort to have a comprehensive water resource strategy, the Government must include initiatives for agriculture. Nearly 70 per cent of worlds fresh water is used for agriculture and in India too, irrigation uses up majority of the freshwater resources.

Efficient techniques of irrigation, coupled with wastewater utilisation for farm uses can enable cutback on freshwater use. As an additional measure, the Government can also explore an appropriate increase in the price of water supply; this might influence consumer behaviour positively and prevent wastage and pollution.

In order to efficiently move towards a water secure future, it is crucial for the Government to concentrate on developing energy efficient desalination plants. The current plants are energy intensive and have prohibitive operational costs.

Saudi Arabia is setting a much-needed example by experimenting with solar powered desalination plant, India can follow the suit and adopt suitable technologies for its desalination plants. Any effort to bring about a quantum change is incomplete without community involvement and participation and the initiative to develop a comprehensive water resources strategy is no different. The authorities must include all stakeholders in order to arrive at a sustainable solution that is driven by community based governance and partnerships.

Access to safe drinking water is the right of everyone but thanks to the threats posed by population and pollution the once abundant fresh water resources are now witnessing a tug of war between ever increasing demand and dwindling supply.

The Government needs to adopt an efficient strategy that seeks to protect and conserve our water resources so that a water secure future is ensured.

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