Water crisis in India amidst the COVID-19 lockdown: All you need to know
The Government of India is taking many preemptive measures to combat and to contain the deadly virus. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has issued an advisory to state governments on drinking water, keeping in view the coronavirus pandemic. The advisory was issued to ensure the safe drinking water supply during the countrywide lockdown due to COVID-19.
MoHFW advisory to States
It is known that frequently washing our hands with frothing soaps is the most effective and efficient measure so far to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Thus, keeping in view the seriousness of the virus, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an advisory to the State Governments to ensure availability of safe potable water to all the citizens, especially in the rural areas where sanitizers are not available.
The advisory further states that the Public Health Engineering Departments, Boards or Nigams of the State Governments must ensure the supply in water-deficient areas. Also, wherever required, chemical treatment of the water must be done to ensure safe potable water. Purifying chemicals such as Chlorine tablets, bleaching powder,
Sodium hypochlorite solution, Alum, etc. should be used as and when required.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) further advises the State Governments to keep a track on water purifying chemicals and their availability. The purifying chemicals are listed in the essential commodities and are a part of running supply chain amidst the lockdown.
Water testing kits may be provided to the villagers so that they can alert the concerned authorities in case the village receives contaminated water. The villagers must be trained to use the kit and must be advised on the periodic testing of the water.
Masks, sanitizers, etc. may be provided to the officials of PHED, particularly those who are managing and maintaining the supply of water in the fields. In case the staff gets infected, alternative arrangements must be made to ensure the uninterrupted and safe supply of potable water.
The notification further states that during the pandemic and consequential lockdown, the demand for water may go up. Thus, supply hours to fetch water from the public stand post must be increased to ensure social distancing.
The grievance redressal mechanism should be strengthened so that any interruption in water supply must be immediately brought to notice and timely action could be taken to reinstate the water supply.
What is the difference between water-stressed and water scarcity condition?
In Water Stressed Condition, annual per capita water availability is less than 1700 cubic metres whereas in Water Scarcity Condition, annual per capita water availability is less than 1000 cubic metres.
Water Crisis in India
India is undergoing a lack of access to clean water from several years. This is because the groundwater levels are falling, the demand for water from the agricultural and industrial sector is increasing, increased pollution levels, etc. In addition to these, the change in climate has increased the water scarcity in India.
As per a data by Ministry of Water Resources in 2017, average annual per capita water availability fell from 1820 cubic metres in 2001 to 1545 cubic metres in 2011. The data further projected that the annual per capita water availability will reduce to 1341 in 2025 and 1140 in 2050.
According to another report by WaterAid in 2018, India is among top 10 countries of the world having lowest access to clean water close to homes, where 16.3 crore people do not have access to clean water.