India can avoid 400k deaths if Jal Jeevan Mission meets target: WHO report
The WHO analysis focused on diarrhoeal diseases as they account for a majority of water and sanitation-related disease burden.
India can potentially prevent nearly 400,000 deaths from diarrhoea and save about 14 million DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) from water-related ailments if it manages to achieve universal rural coverage under the Jal Jeevan Mission, a World Health Organization report commissioned by the government has predicted. One DALY represents the loss of the equivalent of one year of full health.
Coverage under the flagship Jal Jeevan programme, which aims to connect each of India’s 190.40 rural households with a functional tap-water connection by 2024, has so far reached 62.84%. Nearly 820 million people in 12 major river basins of the country face “high to extreme” water stress, according to World Bank data.
Getting to a water source is a long haul in rural India. According to a National Sample Survey Organisation survey, in Jharkhand, it takes women 40 minutes one way, without taking into account the waiting time. In Bihar, it’s 33 minutes. Rural Maharashtra clocks an average of 24 minutes.
The piped water mission, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019, seeks to change this by creating sustainable infrastructure for doorstep availability of drinking water in all rural households.
The WHO analysis focused on diarrhoeal diseases as they account for a majority of water and sanitation-related disease burden. The WHO report stated that in 2018, 36% of India’s total population, including 44% rural population, lacked access to “improved drinking-water sources on their premises”.
Consumption of unsafe drinking water had severe health and societal consequences, it said, adding in 2019, unsafe drinking water, along with inadequate sanitation and hygiene, is estimated to have contributed to 1.4 million deaths and 74 million DALYs globally.
“Rural tap water connections increased from 16.64% in 2019 to 62.84% within a span of 41 months, representing an average annual increase of 13.5%,” said Vini Mahajan, secretary department of drinking water and sanitation.
According to the WHO report, in 2018, women across the country spent an average of 45.5 minutes daily collecting water to meet household needs. Overall, households without on-premises water spent 66.6 million hours each day collecting water, with majority in rural areas. “Universal coverage through tap water provision will result in substantial savings by eliminating the need for daily water collection efforts,” the report said.