The UNDP’s Human Development Report
Safe drinking water: People with access to an improved water source in India went up from 70 per cent in 1990 to 86 per cent in 2004. In doing so, India has met its Millennium Development goal of making water available to its rural and urban population.
Sanitation: Although access to sanitation rose from 14 per cent in 1990 to 33 per cent in 2004, the ‘humble’ toilet is still an alien concept to two-thirds of the country’s population. Just providing people with toilets can save over two million children from dying of sanitation-related diseases such as diarrhoea each year.
Irrigation system: The real cost of new irrigation in countries such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan has more than doubled since 1980. The ground water overdraft rate is more than 25 per cent in China and 56 per cent in parts of India. China produces twice as much rice as India with the same volume of water.
Agricultural subsidies: In India, agriculture accounts for about a third of the sales of electricity boards but only three per cent of revenue. According to the World Bank, agricultural subsidies accounted for about a third of India’s fiscal deficit in 2001. In India, 13 per cent of the population has access to irrigation. Within this group the richest, one-third of farmers receive 73 per cent of the subsidy. Instead of subsidising electricity that allows rich farmers to use ground water indiscriminately, experts suggest investing in long-term water-harvesting projects and check dams. Extending check dams across all of India’s rain-fed farming areas, for example, would raise the value of the monsoon crop from $36 billion a year to $180 billion for an initial investment of $7 billion.
River pollution: All of India’s 14 major river systems were badly polluted and in many of the most stressed basins, water quality had been greatly compromised. In Delhi, to take one example, 200 million litres of raw sewage and 20 million litres of waste are dumped into the Yamuna every day.