The 21st century is often touted as the moment for India to take centre stage, with its vast, youthful and aspirational population. The world looks to us for new innovations, surging optimism and the next wave of growth. But the world is tracking India’s progress in a different sphere as well. With the impending deadline for sustainable development goals approaching in 2030, few places in the world present the stark existential obstacles to resource development and access as India does, especially in the realm of clean water supply and sanitation.
Even before the sustainable development goal of equal access to water and sanitation is achieved, there is a pressing need to address India’s festering water crisis. As the country celebrates World Water Day, a UN-Water convened global event, we must face up to a legacy of resource mismanagement which has made lack of water and disease endemic to certain parts of the country. It’s a story borne out by the fact that one in five Indian children die due to severe diarrhea. Furthermore, 500 million Indians are affected by droughts annually, with many having to reconcile to a life of chronic water shortage.
To remedy this situation, we need institutionalized efforts. It has come in the form of the Central Government’s ‘Har Ghar Nal Yojana’ scheme, which began with an initial outlay of Rs. 5, 555.38 crores to provide safe drinking water to millions of villagers. It dovetails with the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan campaign, which has led to a toilet-building spree that eliminated open-air defecation in vast swathes of the country. Expanding access to drinking water will reinforce lessons learned from the sanitation drive, and help disseminate better waste processing and water management practices, apart from demonstrating the correlation between better access to water and hygiene and economic progress.
Besides these organized efforts, a number of volunteers and changemakers across the country are demonstrating a new paradigm of eco-conscious development, that protects clean water and promotes hygiene. Many of them will be facilitated on World Water Day, and their ideas and innovations could usher in a virtuous cycle of an empowered citizenry and enlightened policymaking, that leads us on the road to equal access to water and hygiene for all.
World Water Day on March 22nd will also mark an important milestone for Mission Paani, a landmark initiative by Network18 and Harpic India. It’s a chance for every Indian to join the movement for water and hygiene, and make a difference. Visit Mission Paani for more.