The Indian government and corporates are pumping funds into the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan to ensure every Indian has access to a toilet by 2019, but on the other side many seem to be blind and ignorant to what happens after the flush. In an answer to a question raised in the Lok Sabha regarding the treatment of sewage, the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change replied stating that “nearly 37,000 million litres/day of untreated sewage water from urban areas flows into rivers across the whole country because of the huge gap between sewage generation and treatment capacity”.
In India, the total installed treatment capacity is about 23,277 million litres/day. Hence, only 37% of sewage generated in urban areas is treated while the rest of the untreated water is dumped in seas, rivers, and lakes.
To make this worse, after two continous drought years India’s river system is insubstantial and weak. The Ganges well-known as the holiest river in the country has gain the title of the fifth most polluted river in the world. Of the 445 rivers examined by the Centre of Pollution Control Board, 275 rivers were polluted by urban establishment. In 2015, the CPCB confirmed that Yamuna is also almost dead. The water has become toxic and remains the same even after various treatment. It seems now that name Yamuna is like considering Yamuna as the sister of Yama, the god of death and destruction.
Pollution of waters from untreated waste water can be extremely hazardous to plants and animals. According to the article by the Central Water Commission, about more than 30 Indian rivers which includes the Ganga and Yamuna are exceeding the acceptable limit of lead concentration (10µg/L). The water sample tested from the Moradabad water quality station on Ramganga River contains lead concentration of 48.92 µg/L, that is nearly five times the acceptable limit. The effects of lead on the human body are well known, it damages the central nervous system and can cause minor problems like restlessness, poor attention span, headaches to muscle tremor and loss of memory. In children the consequences are even more adverse causing gastrointestinal problems and also effect their growth.
All these issues of water contamination can cause healthcare, sanitation, malnutrition issues all at once. The access and availability of clean, safe drinking water is a must for a healthier India. The WHO estimates that 21% of communicable diseases spreading in India are related to unsafe water. Alone Diarrhoea causes about more than 1600 deaths daily.
Water contamination is just one side of the problem. Changing behavioural patterns is an another huge task. Hygiene practices also continue to be a problem in the country. Toilet usage is extremely poor in rural areas of the country; only 14 percent of the rural population has access to a toilet. Even though the government’s efforts towards the Swachh Bharat Mission, where over 89 lakh toilets were built in rural India, the problem of water shortage continued to hinder the progress of the plan. Hand washing is also very low, increasing the spread of diseases. Therefore, in order to decrease the amount of diseases spreading through drinking-water, toilet usage and hygiene must be improved simultaneously. The problem is that all schemes, that are related for better health and sanitation or better nutrition are linked to water in one or the other way. Polluted water and lack of access to water turns down the positive impact of any step towards a healthy India.
It looks like a common will of all the people of the country toward this huge water crises it the only solution.We all need to think from our heart toward this problem in order to bring it to an end.