India scores on drinking water access, reducing open defecation: UN Report


A  UN report has underscored that India has made moderate progress in reducing open defecation, and has been able to provide access to improved drinking water to more people in the country.

The report titled “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment” released by the UN Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation said that India figured among the 16 countries that reduced open defecation by at least 25 percentage points. The country witnessed 31 per cent reduction in open defecation, which represented about 394 million people. However, it said that open defecation among the poor had seen little change over the last 20 years.

Other countries in India’s neighbourhood, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, also made significant reductions in the number of open defecation, more than 30 percentage points since 1990. The report further said that one in every three or 2.4 billion people was still without sanitation facilities. It included 946 million people worldwide who defecated in the open.

India has achieved its target of increasing drinking water resources in the country. It now has 94 per cent of population with access to drinking water, up from 71 per cent in 1990. India also figured among the nine other countries, including Belize, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Tunisia and Uganda, that halved the percentage of the population without improved drinking water.

Scarcity of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene causes ‘neglected tropical diseases’ (NTDs), which include trachoma, soil-transmitted helminths (intestinal worms) and schistosomiasis. NTDs affect over 1.5 billion people across 149 countries, which lead to blindness, disfigurement, permanent disability and death. By the implementation of hygienic routines in daily lives, at least 16 of the 17 NTDs can be prevented.

Open defecation causes a higher risk of chronic malnutrition among children. According to WHO, about 161 million children worldwide are suffering from irreversible physical and cognitive damage. Considering the extent of damage, the UN General Assembly plans to propose new sustainable development goals (SDGs) in September this year to eliminate open defecation by 2030.

Since 1990, nearly 2.1 billion people have had access to improved sanitation, which forms about 68 per cent of the world’s population using an improved sanitation facility. But the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target has been missed by nearly 700 million people, about 9 percentage points below the MDG target of 77 per cent.

But the biggest achievement has been in the area of improved drinking water, as nearly 2.6 billion people have gained access since 1990, which is 91 per cent of the world’s population.