According to non-profit organisation WaterAid, the number of Indians living in the rural regions is more than 63 million – equal to the total population of the United Kingdom (UK) – and do not have access to clean water to consume, cook, or wash with, mostly because the area they live in are isolated, with poor planning and infrastructure.
India holds the largest number of people living in rural regions with no access to potable water, and the nation is still faced with the daunting prospect of climate change and a burgeoning population, among other determinants, making it worse.
According to WaterAid’s published report, China comes in second place with approximately 44 million people living rurally without access to clean water, and Ethiopia and Nigeria share third place with more than 40 million people living without potable water.
“A majority of these people come from poor rural communities and any significant variation in the climate only worsens their daily struggle to access clean water,” WaterAid India’s Chief Executive, V.K. Madhavan, said in an interview with Eco-Business. “With 27 out of the 35 states and union territories in India disaster prone, the poorest and the most marginalised across the country will bear the brunt of extreme weather events and climate change and will find it the hardest to adapt.”
Around the world, an estimated 663 million people live without access to safe water, and 80 per cent – about 522 million – can be found in rural areas, WaterAid reported. Many of them also reside in nations that are susceptible to severe weather like droughts, floods, and cyclones, and climate change has brought more intense weather events to not only make their current situation worse, but also leave many more millions with water insecurity.
With the rising temperatures, rural communities dependant on agriculture will struggle to grow crops for harvest as well as keep the livestock fed. Diseases like blinding trachoma, dengue, cholera, and dengue are anticipated to rise and malnutrition become more common.
As the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index reported, although India is one of the globe’s fastest growing and emerging economies, it is still counted as a nation that is more susceptible to feeling the effects of climate change and being one of the least ready and able to adapt.
Since taking power in 2014, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has prioritised the colossal task of providing sanitation for the rural communities, initiating the “Clean India” campaign with the goal of building and establishing toilets for all and sundry by 2019 in order to bring an end to the open defecation that is happening within the country’s borders.
An estimated 76 million Indians require upgraded sources of water, while another 770 million need proper toilet facilities, WaterAid stated. In India alone, 68,000 children under the age of five die per year because of waterborne diseases due to unclean water and poor sanitation, the organisation concluded.