Access to safe drinking water has been a serious challenge for India, both in rural and urban areas, while lack of access to safe drinking water has become a huge burden on the economy and public health of the country. India has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources whereas it’s home to 1.3 billion people. The lack of piped water supply and the scarcity of potable water make the situation worse for a large part of the entire population.
However, India has improved significantly in the past few years in access to safe drinking water to urban and rural populations. Under the government’s flagship Jal Jeevan Mission over 8.45 crore or 44% of the total 19.22 crore rural households have been provided with piped water connections till November 4, 2021. Six states and Union Territories have already achieved 100% coverage to tap water connection for rural households. These states and UTs are Goa, Telangana, Haryana, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry.
The recently released NFHS-5 (2019-2020) data also shows that access to drinking water from improved sources has increased in 22 states compared to the previous round NFHS-4 (2015-16).
Despite the progress made and the government’s efforts to ensure safe drinking water for all, there are manifold challenges which need to be addressed by policy makers.
India is the third largest user of groundwater and in Water Aid’s ‘Water Quality Index 2019’ India ranked 120 among 122 nations. Depleting groundwater, contamination of resources and ageing supply infrastructure make the situation worse when it comes to access to safe drinking water in India. The rivers, one of the major sources of water in India, are also shrinking or getting contaminated due to rapidly surging population, high industrialisation and pollution.
Though there is significant progress under the Jal Jeevan Mission which aims to provide tap water connections to all rural households by 2024 the slow pace of the scheme in some states is a major concern. The largest state, Uttar Pradesh, has covered only 12.4% of its total rural household. Rajasthan, the state known for facing water scarcity, has only 20.91% coverage of its over one crore total rural household. Similarly, the states including Assam (22%), Ladakh (16.62%), Jharkhand (15.16%), West Bengal (13.48%) and Chhattisgarh 13.23%) have lower coverage under the Jal Jeevan Scheme.
The urban areas, specifically the slums and unauthorised colonies in cities, are also facing a serious threat of water crisis. A report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released in 202o predicted that around 30 India cities would face a grave water risk by 2050 due to rapid increase in population. A recent survey by the Delhi government showed that nearly 44% residents of Delhi slums depend on bottled water mainly for drinking.
Mission Paani, an initiative by News18 and Harpic India, creates awareness for water conservation and amplifies the efforts towards access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for all.
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