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Indian Tamil Hindu women hold utensils as they wait in a queue to collect water at Dharavi, one of the world's largest slums, in Mumbai, India, Jan. 15, 2019.
Rafiq Maqbool/AP
Water & Sanitation

India Pledges to Provide Clean Water to All Rural Households by 2024


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Clean water is essential to daily life; it prevents water-borne illness and makes it possible for people to use toilets.When people lack access to clean water and sanitation, they miss school and work, are more susceptible to disease, and are less likely to overcome poverty. India’s most vulnerable communities stand to benefit from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest commitment. You can join us and take action on this issue here

The Indian government just made a major commitment to providing clean water for all. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday that all households in rural areas will have access to safe piped water by 2024. 

India needs to prioritize and make appropriate interventions to solve its water problems, Modi said in a government statement, according to Reuters. The prime minister called for an action plan to tackle drought and launched a new committee to focus on agricultural reform. 

It is estimated that 163 million people lack access to safe water in India. The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), a United Nations organization, said India’s new commitment could positively affect vulnerable communities immensely. 

“Piped water supply will not only sustain sanitation improvements for harder-to-reach villages but also help improve other development issues such as menstrual hygiene management, health, nutrition, and economic growth,” Sue Coates, executive director ad interim of the WSSCC told Global Citizen.

Modi’s announcement on Saturday is part of his latest initiative to take on the country’s water-related issues. Last month, the prime minister started working with Indian water ministries to deal with polluted rivers and the shortage of clean drinking water.

A growing population, increase in water demand from the agriculture industry, and poor management of water supplies have depleted India’s groundwater. As early as next year, 21 major cities in India are expected to run out of groundwater, posing a threat to food security, according to a report by the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI).

India-Clean-Water-Commitment-Drinking-Water.jpgA boy drinks water from a newly set up water filtration tower in his school in Nai Basti Village, some 35 miles from in New Delhi, India, March 22, 2017.
Image: Manish Swarup/AP

Read More: Hundreds of Indian Villages Empty as People Flee Historic Drought

“The poor bear the brunt of insufficient water conservation efforts,” Modi said in a statement issued by the Indian government, according to Reuters.  

Without efficient resources to grow food, farmers and their families especially suffer. It is estimated that 44% of the total population of India works in agriculture. Many farmers have died by suicide in recent years, drven to desperation when they could no longer depend on their crops to feed and support their families financially. 

This month a record-breaking drought forced thousands of Indians to migrate, in search of water. Western and southern Indian states received below average rainfall in the 2018 monsoon season, a period that is critical to 60% of India’s rain-fed agriculture. Experts believe the extreme weather patterns causing the drought and flooding conditions that put food production at risk are due to climate change.

On Saturday, Modi said water conservation and irrigation require a massive effort and participation. Last week he wrote letters asking village leaders to construct check dams — small dams that counter erosion — and embankments along rivers and streams. and build reservoirs to tackle the water crisis.

WSSCC said it will continue to lend support to Modi’s pledge to ensure sustainable and inclusive sanitation.

“The Government of India, alongside all the partners like us, must continue to place a special focus on the rural population to leave no one behind,” Coates said.