35% living in rural India have to walk half a km to fetch water: Gaon Connection Survey
Gaon Connection conducted a survey in rural India just ahead of the Union Budget. 60 crore people in India are, at present, dealing with the worst water crisis which has hit our country ever. The worst hit are those living in villages. They shared their water woes with us during the survey.
Ten-year-old Mohit, who lives in Chakraghunathpur village in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, reaches school late every single day.
"We have to walk one kilometre to fetch water, something that we do twice a day. This is why I reach school late every day," said Mohit, who was sitting amid yellow-coloured plastic cans in which his family stores water.
Mohit, who studies in Class 7, gets very little time to study because of water crisis in his village.
Mohit is not alone. There are many Mohits in India.
Picture this: 60 crore people in India are, at present, dealing with the worst water crisis which has hit our country ever.
A survey conducted by Gaon Connection in 19 states gave us the real picture. We spoke to 18,000 people living in rural India. Each villager had a story to tell about how water scarcity has hit them hard this summer.
'Only 60.9% people get water at home'
As per the survey, 35.3% people have to walk half a kilometre from their village to fetch water. Only 60.9% people get water at home.
The NITI Aayog released the results of a study last year warning that India is facing its worst water crisis in history and that demand for portable water will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken.
About 2,00,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Twenty-one cities will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted.
The government launched the National Rural Drinking Water Programme in 2009. It aims to provide safe and adequate water for drinking, cooking and other domestic needs to every rural person on a sustainable basis.
"The aim of this programme was to provide piped water supply to 70% rural household by 2020. However, until 2017, only 17% households were getting piped water," said Avinash Kumar, director, programme and policy, WaterAid India.
'Delhi, Bengaluru to run out of groundwater by 2020'
In the year 2014-15, the annual budget of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme was Rs 15,000 crore, whereas now the reduced annual budget is Rs 700 crore.
Delhi and Bengaluru are among those 21 cities that will run out of ground water by 2020. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, the NITI Aayog report said.
Most of those living in rural India have to struggle every day to fetch water. Moreover, the water that they manage to get isn't fit for drinking or to be used for cooking. This is affecting lakhs of people living in rural India.
According to the NITI Aayog report, 70% water in India is contaminated and India ranks 120th among 122 countries in water quality index.
"The biggest problem is that we don't map what are the issues faced by us. We come up with plans to tackle issues without doing any homework," said RS Sinha from Ground Water Action Group.
"We need to do proper research on how to source water and how to ensure it reaches rural people through pipelines. We are not dedicated enough when it comes to tackling water woes. Our policies are investment-based," he added.
He further said we are not able to manage water effectively. "The ground water level is going down. We need to find ways to replenish it," said Sinha.
"We must tap local resources'
According to the India Water Portal, in 50% urban and 85% rural areas groundwater is depleting at an alarming rate. In 449 out of 3,400 blocks, more than 85% water has gotten over. In most states, the ground water has depleted by up to 10-50 meters.
Talking about mismanagement of water in our country, Avinash Kumar from WaterAid said, "It's unfortunate, but when The Economist released a report on water crisis, it lauded Israel's efforts and when it talked about rampant water mismanagement, it talked about India."
He added, "The biggest problem is that we form one national-level policy to deal with water crisis in the entire country. We will have to tap local resources while dealing with a particular region or geography. We will have to involve local people and governance so that water reaches all."
According to India Water Portal, there is 14,000 lakh cubic km water on earth. We can easily form a 3,000-km thick layer with this amount of water. However, only 2.7% water is worth using. Also, most of it is on the poles, which we can't use. So, in a nutshell, we only have less than 1% water which we can use. It is in the form of lakes, wells, ponds and ground water.
"It's been years that I have been dealing with water crisis. Not a single government has bothered to resolve this issue. We have to commute for 3 kms on our bicycles to fetch water. We are not able to provide water to our animals. We can't buy new animals because of this. During summers, our whole life revolves around water," said Ghanshyam Yadav, who lives in Chakraghunathpur village, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.
Maalti lives in Satna district, which is 350 km from Vidisha. She has to walk for one kilometre to fetch water and then stand in long, serpentine queues at the handpump in the area.
A Water Policy formed in 2012 mentioned that world's 18% population lives in India, but only 4% of the population has access to water sources that are worth using.
The NITI Aayog report mentions that the biggest challenge that policy makers are facing is that there is no data available which gives a clear indication about how much water is required in homes and how much is consumed by various industries.
Not just India, entire world is grappling with water crisis. According to the United Nations World Water Development Report published in 2019, usage of water has gone up by 1% every year post 1980. By 2050, demand for water would go up by 20-30% in the world.
Two billion people living in the world face high to extreme level stress due to water crisis and a whooping four billion people face water-related issue at least once in a month.