Water is very essential for survival. Without water, life would be non-existent on planet earth. Although water is not expensive, but its availability is scarce in our country. Both availability and quality of drinking water in urban and rural areas are a cause of concern. On one hand, rural areas rely mainly on traditional sources of water, like rivers, ponds, wells and more recently tube-wells. On other hand, urban areas that get water from municipal authorities suffer more as the quantity is limited and water sources are contaminated with both bio and chemical pollutants. 21% of the diseases reported in India are water related, which is a reflection of the gravity of the situation.
Hydration, having enough water in the body is our primary requirement. We can survive without food for days, provided our body is hydrated enough to carry the bodily functions. Our body uses water in every activity that we do and the majority of it is supplied with drinking water. But when water is scarce, it causes dehydration, which leads to many problems. An even worse scenario is the consumption of polluted water. Water borne diseases are responsible for a large number of fatalities in India. Children in nearly 100 million homes in our country lack water, resulting in malnourishment in early age. All this leads to poor health, high medical costs and less efficiency, further aggravating the vicious cycle of poverty. Look at the staggering figures below, which shows how much effect poor water quality has on our economy, thus hampering the growth.
Closely related to the problem of proper drinking water is sanitation. Each day an average of 5,000 people die due to water and sanitation diseases that are easily preventable. The problem of sanitation, just like water is serious in low income settlements of urban areas or in rural part of the country. Slums of Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi are breeding grounds for diseases for its inhabitants. Old methods of portable toilets and latrines aggravates the situation as the number of people using these facilities in low income settlements is high in comparison to facilities. Also, we don’t have a good sewage system. Another major problem is defecating in open. 600 million people defecate in open in India, increasing the intensity of sanitation problem.
The solution provided by our government has been ineffective due to population, corruption and improper implementation. Both the unavailability of proper drinking water and sanitation has led to a surge in diseases like – diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, and even more serious ones like polio, infectious hepatitis, measles and malaria. The cumulative effect of both these problems has resulted in bad living conditions, increased medical expenses and poor growth of society. Our country’s sanitation is worse even in comparison with African nations (see chart below). And sadly, it is our children who bear the brunt of this problem.
The need of the hour is to develop and implement a program which solves the problem by teaching those who can bring a sustainable change. One such initiative is launched by Coca-Cola in association with TERI University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) known as Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings in Kolkata. The WASH Programs under this initiative are designed to provide Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities to low income settlements. WASH Programs target to reach out to 50,000 beneficiaries in low income settlements and over 300 professionals and 2,500 children in municipal schools. Its aim is to teach and spread awareness, and only that can bring continued benefits and achieve a long term solution.
To be able to give our children a bright future, we need to provide basic facilities – water, sanitation and hygiene. It is only then we can dream of becoming a developed nation in the near future.