Water And Sanitation
Adequate and safe water supply and sanitation are, undeniably, cornerstones of any sustainable development paradigm. Access to safe water and sanitation are also one of the biggest challenges that communities face in fulfilling basic needs.
Access to safe and continued source of water for various uses: drinking, cooking, bathing, livestock, irrigation contributes to the quality of life and facilitates livelihood goals. This is especially true where gender divisive roles of accessing water are concerned. The opportunity cost of unsafe and unpredictable water supply is far greater than the actual cost of accessing water. However, water availability needs to be considered as a function of recharging of ground water resources through active or passive means. Traditional water management practices in many parts of the country show that active recharging through simple structures like trenches, bunds, nullahs and ponds can drought-proof low rain areas. Also, wherever viable, rainwater storage can effectively augment per capita water availability at the household level. For long term success, watershed management measures must be based on community participation in an integrated resource management approach. Ensuring quality of water for human consumption can be addressed through water purification systems based on natural filtration principles, such as bio-sand filters, which can be installed both at the household and community level.
Treatment and disposal of wastewater from toilets depends on the sanitation system in use and its relevance in the given geological condition, and to an extent the local cultural practices. In addition an inclusive approach which strives to bring the entire rural community under the fold of sanitation measures can ensure a much higher degree of success. Rural areas pose a specific demand of on site sanitation systems which will safely dispose waste water without polluting shallow ground water resources. It is important to look at the ecological sanitation practices that can use waste as a resource and also reduce treatment and management costs – both environmental and financial. Also, conventional flush toilets consume a significant portion of the piped water supply, which needs to be rationalised in the context of per capita water availability and volume of wastewater generated that can be treated effectively. Effective solutions to the problem can emerge only from an integrated approach which addresses both water and sanitation at the same time, as drivers for environmental sustainability.
The Total Sanitation Campaign of Government of India has been largely successful in increasing the coverage of adequate sanitation through a demand driven and people centred approach. It follows a principle of “low to no subsidy” where a nominal subsidy in the form of incentive is given to rural poor households for construction of toilets. The Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission aims at ensuring clean drinking water for rural habitations through a participatory approach involving the Panchayati Raj Institutions.