Drinking Water and Sanitation

Though India has met the MDG target for access to drinking water, the issues of water quality and sustainability continue to pose a challenge. Millions of people in the country still do not have access to safe drinking water and most depend on groundwater. It is also argued that, due to dwindling groundwater resources, India could become a water scarce country within a few years. Consequently, provisioning of safe drinking water to the large population, particularly the poor of the country, is one of the exacerbating challenges for the government.

A number of concerns have also been raised about the introduction of ‘user charges’, particularly with regard to its implications for the access of the poor and vulnerable sections to clean and safe water. Moreover, the issue of sanitation, which incorporates usage of toilets and washing hands among other things, is also linked intrinsically with the availability of water.

As regards sanitation, India has not met the MDG target; and the country reportedly accounts for 60 percent of the open defecation in the world. Stunting in children has been attributed to unsafe sanitation practices. There are also gender implications of the problems in this domain –for instance, girl children dropping out of schools due to lack of toilets in school premises and women being exposed to violence due to absence of safe sanitation facilities have been highlighted as some of the glaring consequences of the limited progress made by the country with regard to sanitation.

Policies and budgets undoubtedly have an important role in this sphere. CBGA’s research focuses not only on the adequacy of public resources for drinking water and sanitation but also on questions like whether the budgetary outlays are translating into better outcomes on the ground. Accordingly, we analyse the designs of the important programmes and schemes in the sector, systemic problems in fund flow and fund utilisation in these schemes, and monitoring and evaluation of the schemes at various levels. CBGA’s work also focuses on the issues of social exclusion in this domain.

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