Rohit Yadav, a Class 6 student from Bhatkhedi village in Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district, spends almost an hour every day to collect drinking water from a source more than a kilometre from his house across the busy Agra-Mumbai National Highway. His younger brother, Ravi, 9, also chips in.
“Our village does not have clean drinking water source, so we have to collect water to help our mother before we leave for school,” Yadav told Hindustan Times.
Yadav’s is a story common to scores of women and children from across Madhya Pradesh, who are forced to collect drinking water from open and far-away sources because of the lack of potable water at or near their residences, especially in rural areas.
Less than one-fourth or 23.4% of the state’s population have access to drinking water through taps, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report analyzing the census data of 2011 shows.
Against the national trend, the drinking water supply in the state through tap decreased during the last decade from 25.3% in 2001.
The national average of tap water supply went up to 43.5% in 2011, almost double of the state coverage from 36.7% in 2001, census figures show.
Naturally, the dependence on using water from hand pumps as well as tube well/borehole increased from 43% to 55%, the report shows. This indicates overexploitation of groundwater.
In 14 districts of MP, including Rajgarh, more than 30% of households do not have access to improved drinking water sources, forcing them to depend on water from open wells, canals, rivers, lakes or ponds for their daily use.
The UNICEF report, prepared in collaboration with MP Directorate of Census Operations, also shows that the percentage of people collecting water from a distant source (more than 500m form home in rural areas and 100m in urban areas) went up to 30.5% in 2011 from 24.3% in 2001.
This means more people have to travel larger distance to find drinking water every day. The report also highlights disparity of drinking water availability (from improved sources like tap, hand pump, tube well/borehole or covered dug well) in urban and rural areas as well as between social groups.
In 12 districts, the difference between rural and urban access is more than 25% and on average the access is lower for SC/ST groups compared to other sections.
On the quality of drinking water, the report quoting the Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation, said that water quality needs particular attention in rural areas of 46 out of 50 districts in the state.
Minister for public health engineering Kusum Singh Mahdele said that her department is aware of the situation and the MP State Water Corporation was making specific provisions under the Nal-Jal scheme to ensure more coverage of tap water by using surface water sources to decrease dependence on tap water.