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Cities need to strategise supply of drinking water

The growing urbanisation has put a severe demand on cities for basic infrastructure and services. Rapidly growing population in the cities attracts adverse effect on quality of urban life, economic productivity and sustainable development. The civic authorities across Indian cities are struggling to provide clean drinking water to its citizens, which is a basic necessity of life. Almost every urban centre in the country is facing water crisis and situation is becoming grim by the day. What is urgently required is to build water infrastructure and institutions and create sound water governance. All the stakeholders need to speed up the water governance.

No one can stop the migration from villages, and small cities to big urban centres as economic activities and livelihood opportunities are available in these cities. As the population in cities grows the demand for basic infrastructure like housing transport, sanitation, solid waste management and water have grown manifold. While the crisis is on all these fronts, scarcity of safe drinking water is the biggest one. In one of its report, planning commission of India(now NITI Aayog) had noted that the lack of safe drinking water especially to urban poor. Naturally, in such a situation people pay a heavy price to commercial vendors for drinking water. The growth of population due to rapid urbanisation is the prime reason for increased water demand. It certainly has to be seen in the context of access to safe drinking water in the process of ongoing urbanisation.

Over the years several indicators have been applied to understand the availability and quality of drinking water in an area. One of the basic ones is ‘ proportion of population/ households having access to safe drinking water’. This has come under intense criticism by analysts as it considers a high [proportion of households under ‘safe drinking water’ category. The argument is that while sources of safe drinking water have been identified, the agencies are not taking sufficient steps to test the water quality regularly. India like any other country is struggling to provide safe drinking water to its city dwellers. It will have to find means and ways to meet the demand using technological means so that people do not get contaminated water. We all know all the source of water in this country is highly contaminated. Cities need to be covered on priority. It also requires that limited water resources are used wisely so that other sectoral demands like agriculture and industry is also met. The failure of the civic emergency to provide clean drinking water has made the citizens vulnerable to private water providers. Even in the cities private water suppliers use tankers, tube wells or bore wells, private wells, bottled or packaged
water. They flout every norms and regulations using the helplessness of urban citizens. Most of the time they operate illegally and use groundwater resources to sell it to them. In cities, groundwater is already depleting very fast. Worst is that they often supply untreated water and takes no responsibility for its quality. So in the city, we have mainly started depending on bottled water or packaged water as they are considered safe. But at times even the conduct of these companies are under scanner for flouting norms. We need to address the scarcity of water on priority and usher in a sound system of governance to meet water needs. Also, there is an urgency to pluck leakages and bring the system of efficient use of water and revenue generation. Last but not the least we must keep urban poor in mind while formulating the water policies.

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