Hand pumps continue to be the major source of drinking water for households in rural areas, while urban India largely gets piped water supply, according to a report by the National Statistical Office (NSO) of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation.

As much as 42.9% of households in rural areas use hand pumps as the principal source of drinking water, while 40.9% of households in the urban areas use piped water as the principal source, according to the survey.

“About 48.6% of the households in the rural and about 57.5% in the urban areas had exclusive access to principal source of drinking water. About 87.6% of the households in the rural and about 90.9% in the urban areas had sufficient drinking water throughout the year from the principal source. About 58.2% of the households in the rural and about 80.7% in the urban areas had drinking water facilities within the household premises," the report said.

As much as 94.5% of the households in the rural and 97.4% in the urban areas used “improved source of drinking water" such as bottled water, piped water into dwelling, piped water to yard/plot, piped water from neighbour, public tap/standpipe, tube well, hand pump, protected well, public tanker truck, private tanker truck, protected spring and rainwater collection, the report said. The survey showed that 51.4% of households in rural areas and 72.0% in urban areas used improved source of drinking water, sufficiently available throughout the year located in the premises.

The ministry conducted the survey on household social consumption related to drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, and housing condition as part of the 76th round of National Sample Survey (NSS). Data was collected from 106,838 households—63,736 in rural areas and 43,102 in urban areas—from 5,378 villages in rural areas and 3,614 sample urban frame survey (UFS) blocks in urban areas following a scientific survey methodology. UFS block was envisaged to be a compact area unit with 80-200 households in general. Each town is divided into certain number of Investigator Units (IV Units) which are further divided into UFS blocks for surveys.

“It’s encouraging to see a significant increase in access to improved water supply sources and use of toilets by families, especially women. Bigger challenges remain on waste water disposal both in rural and urban areas, which provide breeding grounds for insects. Sewer connections are still not available in many urban areas. The report is a wake-up call for undertaking design and implementation of appropriate programmes and intensified action in areas such as small scale waste water management systems in rural areas," said Dinesh Agarwal, technical health advisor, IPE Global, an international development consulting company.

The survey has revealed that a quarter of rural households still do not have access to sanitation. The report said that 71.3% of the households in rural areas and 96.2% in urban areas had access to latrine, but added that there may be respondent bias in reporting access to latrine as queries on benefits received by the households from government schemes were asked prior to asking them on access to latrine.

The survey has also highlighted that even after having access to latrines, people are not using them. “Among the households which had access to latrines, about 3.5% of the household members in the rural areas and about 1.7% of the household members in the urban areas never used latrine," the report said.

Among households which had access to latrines, 94.7% of the males and 95.7% of the females in the rural areas used latrines regularly, while 98.0% of the males and 98.1% of the females in urban areas did so, the report said.

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