WaterAid releases ‘Water: At what cost? The State of the World’s Water’ to mark World Water Day 2016

WaterAid/Dieter Telemans

The report titled “Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water” was released on the occasion of World Water Day by WaterAid India. Also present on the occasion were UNICEF India, India WASH Forum and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability. The report reflects on the most difficult areas globally for people to access clean and safe water, and the coinciding costs for accessing it. Nearly 76 million people in India with no access to a safe water supply incur high costs for access, which is primarily due to poor management of water resources.

WaterAid’s analysis shows that in the developed world, a standard water bill is as little as 0.1% of the income of someone earning the minimum wage. However, in a country like India, a person reliant on a water vendor (tanker) for their water supply would spend as much as 17% of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply.

Avinash Kumar, Director – Programmes & Policy, WaterAid India, said:

“Water is going down as a political priority. The country still faces a huge challenge in ensuring safe water supply. Over one lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually. With the growing population, especially in urban areas, safe water supply is irregular and expensive. In rural areas, new facilities fall into disrepair where there are no resources for maintenance. Over the years, WaterAid has realised that the key to drinking water security lies with the community. We are working to promote locally-owned and managed drinking water security plans which are simple and can be used, monitored and managed by people and local governments.”

Worldwide, some 650 million people in the world still do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion do not have access to basic sanitation. Lack of water, sanitation and hygiene practices often leads to diseases like diarrhoea which is the primary cause of up to 50 per cent of all child malnourishment.

Speaking on the link between safe and clean water and sanitation, Frank Odhiambo, UNICEF’s WASH Specialist said, “To ensure continuous access to clean and safe water, poor sanitation and hygiene practices need to be addressed. India has by far the largest number of people defecating in the open – the number stood at 564 million in 2015, of which 524 million live in rural areas[1]. We also know that open defecation is one of the causes of microbiological contamination of water leading to preventable diseases like diarrhoea, especially among children. We need to lay emphasis on behaviour change to ensure that everyone is using a toilet and practises good hygiene. UNICEF India is supporting the Government’s catalytic efforts towards ‘peoples’ movements’ for a Clean India with the ongoing Team Swachh campaign that aims to influence behaviours towards the ‘use of toilets for progress’. Additionally, for promoting approaches towards safeguarding water quality for health and managing risks at the community level, UNICEF is supporting central and state governments with Water Safety Planning along with WHO and NEERI[2]”.

The report also ranks nations based on rates of household access to water and on highest populations without access to water, and includes a list of the countries which have improved most in the last 15 years.

Among the main findings:

  • India, China and Nigeria have the highest numbers of people waiting for access to clean water
  • In Papua New Guinea, an average person in poverty will spend 54% of their salary to access the World Health Organisation-recommended minimum 50 litres per day to meet basic needs. Average use in the UK is about 150 litres per person, per day
  • Cambodia, Mali, Laos and Ethiopia have made more progress than any other nations on improving access to water for their populations
  • Despite much progress, the report finds that inequalities persist even in nations that have made great strides, with the poorest often paying the highest percentages of their income on water
  • There remain 16 countries in the world where 40% or more of their population do not have access to clean water – due to lack of government prioritisation, lack of dedicated funding, shortages in human resources and the exacerbating effects of climate change on water availability and quality combine.

On this World Water Day, WaterAid is reminding governments that the promises of the UN Global Goals on Sustainable Development, to eradicate extreme poverty and create a fairer, more sustainable world, includes Goal 6 to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and access to safe, private toilets by 2030. This promise is achievable but it will take a serious political shift and financing to get there.

Link to the report:

http://wateraidindia.in/publication/water-at-what-cost/

[1] JMP 2015

[2] NEERI: National Environmental Engineering Research Institute

Toilet Facts

44 per cent of the total population in India still defecate in the open.

Open defecation causes chronic diarrhoea that leads to stunting.