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Business News/ News / India/  Universal tap water coverage could save 400,000 lives, $101 bn in costs for India: WHO
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Universal tap water coverage could save 400,000 lives, $101 bn in costs for India: WHO

The analysis indicates that in 2019, unsafe drinking water, along with inadequate sanitation and hygiene, contributed to 1.4 million deaths and 74 million DALYs globally

In 2018, households without on-premises water spent a staggering 66.6 million hours each day collecting water, with the majority (55.8 million hours) occurring in rural areas.Premium
In 2018, households without on-premises water spent a staggering 66.6 million hours each day collecting water, with the majority (55.8 million hours) occurring in rural areas.

New Delhi: Safely managed drinking water for households across country could avert nearly 400,000 deaths caused by diarrheal diseases and prevent approximately 14 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) related to these diseases. This would result in estimated cost savings of up to $101 billion, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report.

The ‘Har Ghar Jal’ report focuses on diarrheal diseases as they contribute significantly to the overall disease burden related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues. The analysis underscores the urgent need to address these diseases and the potential for substantial gains in public health and economic well-being.

Prior to 2019, water supply in rural areas was a challenging issue. The report reveals that in 2018, 36% of India's total population, including 44% of the rural population, lacked access to improved drinking water sources on their premises. The direct consumption of unsafe drinking water had severe health and societal consequences. The analysis indicates that in 2019, unsafe drinking water, along with inadequate sanitation and hygiene, contributed to 1.4 million deaths and 74 million DALYs globally.

“No programme has this kind of direct impact on improving the lives of individuals and families physically, mentally, and financially", VK Paul, member (Health), NITI Aayog, said at the launch of the report, highlighting the substantial benefits of the 'Har Ghar Jal' programme in India. “We are witnessing the role of safe drinking water in saving lives, empowering women and girls, and contributing to ease of living."

The WHO report emphasises the tremendous time and effort saved for women and girls through the provision of tap water. In 2018, women in India spent an average of 45.5 minutes daily collecting water to meet household needs. Overall, households without on-premises water spent a staggering 66.6 million hours each day collecting water, with the majority (55.8 million hours) occurring in rural areas. Universal coverage through tap water provision will result in substantial savings by eliminating the need for daily water collection efforts.

Vini Mahajan, secretary, Department of Drinking Water Supply, highlighted the remarkable progress of the Jal Jeevan Mission. She noted that rural tap water connections increased from 16.64% in 2019 to 62.84% within a span of about 3 and a half years, representing an average annual increase of 13.5% compared to a mere 0.23% per annum.

The Har Ghar Jal scheme, implemented by the Jal Jeevan Mission under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, was announced on 15 August 2019. The scheme aims to provide every rural household with affordable and regular access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water through taps. The programme's components align with the WHO or UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (JMP) to monitor progress on SDG 6.1 for safely managed drinking water services.

The WHO monitors various sustainable development goal (SDG) indicators, including the proportion of the population using safely managed drinking water services and mortality related to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene. WHO has developed methods and tools to estimate the health gains associated with improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene, particularly in reducing diarrheal diseases and other related health outcomes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based policy reporter covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate policies for Mint. Puja reports on farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy and policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP27. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Updated: 10 Jun 2023, 12:04 PM IST
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