Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Mention the state of poor drinking water quality. How state failure led to such issues.
Conclusion. Way forward.

The report of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has raised issue of poor tap water quality in major Indian cities. City water systems are normatively required to comply with the national standard for drinking water, but it is not being adopted. Their lack of initiative could be attributed partly to the expanding footprint of packaged drinking water, especially in populous cities, coupled with the high dependence on groundwater in fast-growing urban clusters where State provision of piped water systems does not exist.

Poor drinking water quality:

  1. According to data from the World Bank:
    • 163 Million Indians lack access to safe drinking water.
    • 210 Million Indians lack access to improved sanitation.
    • 21% of communicable diseases are linked to unsafe water.
    • 500 children under the age of five die from diarrhoea each day in India.
  2. India ranks a dismal 120 out of 122 nations for its water quality index and 133rd out of 180 nations for its water availability.
  3. Nearly 75% of India’s surface water is contaminated by human, animal, agricultural and industrial waste, and its groundwater often contains high levels of fluoride and other mineral contaminants.
  4. A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) pointed out that only 18% of the rural population has access to potable piped water, failing to meet the 2017 target of 50%.
  5. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50 percent.

State failure- a reason for poor quality of drinking water:

  1. Decreasing water quality due to poor waste management laws, growing financial crunch for development of resources and scarcity of safe drinking water.
  2. Inadequate institutional reforms and ineffective implementation of existing provisions affect the performance level for water service delivery.
  3. Despite Namami Gange, water quality of Ganga continues to worsen. The waters of the Yamuna, Ganga and Sabarmati flow the dirtiest with a deadly mix of pollutants both hazardous and organic. Inability to stop the discharge into rivers has led to rise in pollution levels in rivers.
  4. In practice, municipal water fails due to the lack of accountability of the official agencies, and the absence of robust data in the public domain on quality testing.
  5. Central Ground Water Board estimates that nearly a fifth of the urban local bodies are already facing a water crisis due to excessive extraction, failed monsoons, and unplanned development.
  6. On the issue of regular testing, there is a no body to entrust, therefore a separate agency with the task in each State is needed, rather than relying on the same agency that provides water to also perform this function.

The Centre’s approach to the issue relies on naming and shaming through a system of ranking, but this is unlikely to yield results, going by similar attempts to benchmark other urban services. Making it legally binding on agencies to achieve standards and empowering consumers with rights is essential, because State governments would then take an integrated view of housing, water supply, sanitation and waste management.A scientific approach to water management is vital, considering that 21 cities including many of those found to have unclean tap water could run out of groundwater as early as 2020, as per a NITI Aayog report.