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  • Raghav Sand

Drinking Water and Sanitation: A Reality Check

Having access to clean drinking water, sanitation and handwashing facilities is a very basic human need. Yet billions still go without. This can have devastating consequences: every year, millions of people die from infectious diseases spread through unsafe drinking water or poor sanitation. More than half a million are children.

In 2020, almost three-quarters (74%) of the world population had access to a safely managed water source. One-in-four people do not have access to safe drinking water. We see that in countries at the lowest incomes, less than one-third of the population have safe water. Most live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Target 6.1 is to: “achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” by 2030. We are now five years into the SDGs. One-third of the way through. If progress continues at these rates, we would only reach 82% by 2030.

SDG Target 6.2 is to: “achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation” by 2030. In 2020, just over half (54%) of the world population had access to safely managed sanitation. It is shocking that nearly one-in-two don’t. Around 6% do not have any sanitation facilities at all, and instead have to practice open defecation. In 2015 only 47% of the global population had access to safe sanitation. That means we’ve seen an increase of seven percentage points over five years. The gap between where we are now and universal access is still huge. Global progress is far too slow to achieve this by 2030. If progress continues at these rates, we would only reach 68% by 2030. Almost one-third of the world would miss out.

India’s Performance on SDG Target 6

To measure India’s performance towards the Goal of Clean Water and Sanitation, eight national level indicators have been identified, which capture five out of the eight SDG targets for 2030 outlined under this Goal. These indicators have been selected based on the availability of data at the sub-national level and to ensure comparability across States and Union Territories (UTs).

SDG Index Score for Goal 6 ranges between 54 and 100 for States and between 61 and 100 for UTs. Goa and Lakshadweep are the top performers among the States and the UTs, respectively, having secured a score of 100. Twenty-five States and six UTs bagged a position in the category of Front Runners. Although no State/UT fell behind in the Aspirants category, two States and one UT belonged in the Performers category.

NITI Aayog SDG Index & Dashboard 2020-21

Access to Piped Water Supply

Around 51 percent of the rural population receives safe and adequate drinking water within premises through piped water supply. The aim is to increase it to 100 percent. Telangana and Goa have already achieved the target while Gujarat and Haryana at 97.57 and 97.41 percent, respectively, are close to achieving the target. Percentage of rural population receiving safe drinking water through piped water supply within premises was the lowest in Uttar Pradesh at 20.35 percent.

Access to improved sources of drinking water

While the national target is to provide access to improved source of drinking water to all, currently 97.44 percent of the rural population in India has access to improved sources of drinking water. Ten States (Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Telangana) have achieved the target. Among the UTs, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Ladakh have achieved the national target. With just over 74.72 percent, Assam has the lowest share of rural population that has access to an improved source of drinking water.

Schools with separate toilet facilities for girls

Roughly 95 percent of schools in the country have separate toilet facilities for girls. The target is to cover all schools. Four UTs and the State of Goa have already achieved this target. Only 68 percent of the schools in Meghalaya have separate toilet facilities for girls.

Waste water treatment

Only about 88.4 percent of industries (17 highly polluting/red category/ grossly polluting industries) comply with wastewater treatment as per CPCB norms, while the target is for all industries to meet the CPCB norms. Manipur, Nagaland, and Tripura have achieved this target with all industries complying with waste water treatment norms. Only 66 percent of the industries in Rajasthan, and 60 percent in Andaman and Nicobar Islands comply with the wastewater treatment norms.

Groundwater withdrawal against availability

A stage of groundwater development less than or equal to 70 percent is considered safe. The overall stage of groundwater development in the country is 63 percent. The stage of groundwater extraction is very high in the States of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, where it is more than 100 percent, which implies that in these States the annual ground water consumption is more than annual extractable ground water resources. In the States of Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and the UTs of Chandigarh and Puducherry, the stage of groundwater extraction is between (70-100) percent. In rest of the States/ UTs the stage of groundwater development is below 70 percent.

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