New Delhi: India is home to the highest number of people—163 million—in the world without access to clean water, and faces serve challenges on water resources due to climate change, says a new study by WaterAid, a global advocacy group on water and sanitation.
The report, The Water Gap - WaterAid’s State of the World’s Water 2018, ranked India on the top of 10 countries in the world with 163.1 million inhabitants living without access to safe water close to home. Eritrea tops the list of countries with lowest access to water by percentage of population with just 19% of the people in this coastal nation having access to clean water, according to the study released ahead of World Water Day.
Globally, WaterAid said, the number of people without clean water close to home has gone up with over 844 million people now struggling to access safe water—an about 200 million more than previously counted. India is followed by Ethiopia with over 60 million people without clean water, while Nigeria ranks third with over 59 million people without safe water.
India is also, however, one of the most-improved nations for reaching more people with safe water by numbers since 2000, and ranks second only after China which tops the list. China has increased clean water access to over 334 million people since 2000, while India has reached 300 million new inhabitants with safe water.
Vinash Kumar, director- programmes & policy at WaterAid India, said the government learned from its previous experiences of Swajaldhara and gave space to community based planning under the ongoing National Rural Drinking water Programme.
The report, however, noted that despite significant improvement to increase access to more inhabitants, India faces challenges with falling groundwater levels, drought, pollution, poor water resource management, and demand from agriculture and industry. These challenges, it said, will intensify as climate change contributes to more extreme weather shocks.
WaterAid said the study further demonstrates that the poorest and least powerful are most often without clean water, and those who are older, ill, disabled, who live in a remote or rural location or have been displaced.
“Inequalities in wealth and power, attitudes in society and culture, and limited resources mean they are also hardest to reach. Gender intensifies this inequality; it is mainly up to women and girls to find and fetch water, or to find ways to adapt when it is scarce," it said.
“Access to clean water is partially proportional to an individual’s caste, class, political affiliation, homelessness or displacement. Some of the most marginalised communities in the country suffer from access to clean water and thus are vulnerable to a wide range of struggles and it is our responsibility to ensure that no one is denied safe water ever," adds Kumar.
Globally, an estimated 89% of the world population has safe water in or near home–an increase from 81% in 2000, added the report.