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Water lethal than terror

Polluted water is killing more people globally than all forms of violence, including war and terror. Half of the victims are children, a UN report has said. In India, over 1 lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually, reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Mar 23, 2010 00:28 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Water is lethal like never before.

Polluted water is killing more people globally than all forms of violence, including war and terror. Half of the victims are children, a UN report has said. In India, over 1 lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually.

Wastewater, a cocktail of fertiliser run-off and sewage disposal, will be one of the biggest dangers to environment with world population expected to double in 40 years, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released on Monday, the World Water Day.

Countries such as India — with a capacity to treat just 30 per cent of the wastewater and child malnourishment rate of 46 per cent — will be most vulnerable.

Drinking water in one-third of India’s 600 districts has a high fluoride content, as a result 65 million people are suffering from fluorosis, which causes crippling problems, says a Planning Commission report. One-fourth of the districts have high salinity and nitrate content in water.

To top it, hospitals in the worst affected districts do not have a system of early detection of ill-effects of contaminated water. “By the time the disease is detected, it is too late for cure,” said a commission official, who didn’t wish to be identified.

Things are changing, but slowly.

In February, Dalit village of Halsi in Bihar got its first toilet. A month earlier, all homes in a village in Orissa’s Koraput district had got toilets. “We used to defecate near the stream, the only source of water for the village. Many elders and children died each year due to water-borne diseases,” recalled Abudu Gangi, a villager.

Every year across the world, more than 3 million people die of water diseases, including 1.2 million children — one child every 20 seconds, estimates UNEP.

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