For many of us accessing water is as easy as turning on the tap, but for a large section of the global population, it still is a distant dream. The scenario in India is no different from other developing countries, where individuals are still dependent on rivers, streams, wells and other water bodies for access to potable water.
The situation in our country further gets amplified as women, despite taking the lead role in collecting water for a family, have little say in the management of this most precious of resources. The water crisis across the country is worsening the situation for women who spend hours fetching drinking water, certainly so in rural areas.
Getting water for daily household needs has been recognised as a woman’s job for ages. In some parts of India, women even in this day and age walk several kilometers to get water.
According to a National Commission for Women report, women still walk upto 2.5 km to reach a source of potable water in rural areas. The NCW study projected that the cost of fetching water, which is almost equivalent to 150 million women day each year, translates into a whopping 10 billion rupees per year.
India has only 4 percent of the global freshwater despite housing 17 percent of the world’s population. According to the 2017 data from the Central Ground Water Board, about 256 districts in India have recorded alarming groundwater levels.
The situation in these regions is only going to worsen in the coming years with dropping levels of groundwater. A majority of rural households do not have access to piped potable water and are dependent on unhygienic water resources.
The situation isn’t any better in urban areas. A particular cause of concern is the water scarcity in many Southern cities. For instance, water is rationed twice a week in Bangalore while 250 tankers make 2,250 trips to quench Chennai’s thirst. In Hyderabad, some areas get water once in three days.
Women in rural areas spend 3-4 hours a day on average fetching drinking water for their families. This crucial time can be utilised for economic activities or gaining education. It also prevents the women from harnessing their true potential and leveraging opportunities that could make them socially and economically empowered.
The NCW study found that a rural woman walks more than 14,000 km a year just to fetch water. The scenario in urban India is not healthy either. The women in urban areas do not walk such distances but stand in the long queues for hours to collect water from roadside taps or water tankers.
Women are well-positioned to maintain water security in India if provided with proper support and platforms. For instance, in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district, a few women formed diverse groups to manage 450 pumps and met the domestic water needs of 130 villages in Lava panchayat, under a UNICEF initiative.
Mission Paani, an initiative by News 18 and Harpic India, aims to provide safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation for all in India. The focus of the campaign is to amplify the efforts towards the availability of drinking water for all.
Log on to Mission Paani and join the movement.