India is Reeling under Severe Water-Borne Diseases: Finds Eureka Forbes-GFK Water Audit 2013
Public responses underline water contamination being a serious issue in Indian households
Healthy drinking water for individuals and families is the need of the hour
Mumbai: India is facing a severe public health crisis with increasing water-borne diseases and a deteriorating quality of groundwater in India. The World Health Organization has identified contamination of drinking water as a critical public health issue; affecting more than 98,000 children with diarrhea and other water borne diseases every year.
Recent studies by the United Nations reveal that over 1 lakh people die in India annually due to water borne diseases. It indicates that 70 million people in 20 states and 600 districts are at risk due to excess fluoride and around 10 million people are at risk due to excess arsenic in ground water.
To understand the impact of water contamination and key issues with drinking water in India, Eureka Forbes and GFK conducted a nationwide survey titled “Kya Aapka Paani Beemar Hai”. The water audit aimed at mapping the causes and reasons that were affecting families and individuals across India due to increasing levels of water contamination and unavailability of safe, healthy drinking water. A comprehensive survey was conducted in 8 cities across India namely Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Lucknow interviewing 3500+ households belonging to SEC A and B.
The findings revealed some hard-hitting facts about water contamination being the biggest issue for more than 70% householdsin India. Ground water samples collected and examined by the Eureka Forbes Institute of Environment, a non-profit organization revealed that the ground water of many areas in the surveyed cities was severely hit by water contamination. Levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Hardness, Chlorides, Nitrates, etc. responsible for water contamination have exceeded more than the permissible limits in certain parts of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai. Toxic chemicals like arsenic and lead and disease-causing bacteria are also contributing to the alarming increase in the water contamination.
Due to increasing levels of water contamination, 5 out of every 10 respondents surveyed had someone in their family and friends falling sick in the last one year. Water borne diseases, a critical cause of concern across cities, have accounted for nearly 77% of all diseases severely affecting people’s health. Incidences of deadly waterborne diseases like cholera, jaundice, typhoid, diarrhoea as well as common cold, cough and fever were higher amongst people accounting for about 77% as compared to malaria, dengue and other diseases.
The World Health Organization which has already identified drinking water contamination as a critical public health issue in India has estimated that more than 98,000 children suffer from acute diarrhea and other water borne diseases every year. According to UNICEF and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)'s Water in India: Situation and Prospects, the first cross-sectoral assessment of state of India water resources, contaminated water causes water-borne infections such as diarrhea which can stunt growth and development in children.
A significant number of 44% respondents have attributed unhealthy drinking water as the main cause for the diseases in their families. The study echoed a serious concern among 50% respondents who agreed that their drinking water is not healthy and hence is unfit for consumption.
The study also showed that not all respondents use proper purification methods to ensure safety of their drinking water. A large chunk of respondents — 53% were using water purifiers as their primary mode of drinking water purification, followed by 17% who boil drinking water and 14% who use packaged drinking water for daily consumption. Surprisingly, even today about one-fifth or 16% of Indian households drink water directly from taps.
This indicates that a significant number of people are vulnerable to deadly water-borne diseases, especially during monsoons as the water contamination levels tend to increase.
Most of the respondents surveyed were really concerned about the quality of drinking water and increasing proportion of deadly water borne diseases occurring in their families. Water hardness, bad taste, colour and odour were some of the major issues highlighted by the respondents during the survey.
The audit also studied the sources of drinking water in households surveyed which was largely dominated by municipal water (60%), followed by borewell (27%) and tankers (13%).
Sharing the findings of Eureka Forbes-GFK Water Audit, Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, Professor Emeritus Department of Bio-Chemistry and Bio-Physics at St. Johns Medical College, Bangalore who also is an Advisor to The Quality Council of India (QCI), a visiting scholar in the university of Cincinnati USA, Director for National Referral Center for Lead Poisoning (NRCLP) in India said, “The much debated topic of water quality and contamination is touching alarming levels in India. There has been a growing concern about the increasing water contamination levels and its impact on lives of Indians which is much evident from the water audit. Some of the key issues like water contamination, hardness, increasing incidences of water borne diseases are shocking and alarming. He said India is on the verge of becoming the “world capital of lead poisoning”.” He said “when there is acute exposure to lead, and the concentration levels very high, there is damage to the central nervous system and the kidneys, the reduction of IQ especially in children is irreversible.”
The biggest concern for people is accessibility to clean and healthy drinking water. Even today, a large section of society drink tap water risking their lives with deadly contaminants present in drinking water. The findings have thrown light on the fact that water contamination especially in ground water and hardness is a major life-threatening issue about which public awareness needs to be raised.”
Launching the report, Mr. Avadhut Dabholkar (GM - Consumer Experiences) from GFK said, “With the number of water-borne diseases on the rise in India, casualty from drinking contaminated water is a pressing public health issue. It is important to educate people about the significance of drinking safe and healthy water. The purpose of this study was to gauge the extent of awareness of the problem of contamination in drinking water and how it is affecting the health of Indians.”
KEY FINDINGS OF EUREKA FORBES-GFK WATER AUDIT — ALL INDIA
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