Wash your hands often to keep Covid-19 away, but most Indians can't afford the water

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Wash your hands often to keep Covid-19 away, but most Indians can't afford the water
BCCL
  • The Coronavirus crisis is exposing the water inequality across the country, where 82% of the households in rural India still do not have piped water connections.
  • In Delhi alone, 85% of the households do not have piped water connections.
  • People in rural areas get a maximum of 25 litres of water per day. Following the WHO recommendations, they would end up using all the water in handwashing alone, with nothing left to drink.
Washing hands with soap is critical in the fight against Covid-19, but it’s a luxury for 82% of rural households and nearly 60% of urban households. In a way, water shortage is a way of life for millions of Indians.

“Handwashing with soap is one of the cheapest, most effective things you can do to protect yourself and others against coronavirus, as well as many other infectious diseases. Yet for billions, even this most basic of steps is simply out of reach,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programmes.

There’s just not enough water

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, repeatedly. This is one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
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At an average of 10 hand washes per day and assuming each hand wash requires 2 litres of water, each person would end up using 20 litres of water per day. This is more than 20% of the average per capita water consumption in India, which stands at 92 litres.

Over 20% of the country is facing drought-like situation
Wash your hands often to keep Covid-19 away, but most Indians can't afford the water

Even as India fights to prevent Covid-19 from turning it into a humanitarian disaster, more than 20% of the country is facing drought-like situations, according to IIT-Gandhinagar’s Drought Early Warning System.

Rural areas which depend on government water tankers get up to 25 litres of water per person per day, according to a recent report. Based on WHO guidelines, this would be used up for handwashing alone. Villagers would be left with no water to even drink.
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Piped water connections are a luxury for many
Wash your hands often to keep Covid-19 away, but most Indians can't afford the water

According to a 2012 survey, 85% of the households in Delhi do not have piped water connections. Slums, which are not legally recognized, don’t have piped water connections and depend on water tankers.

Now, due to the nationwide lockdown, many households in Delhi fear running out of water. Private water tanker suppliers are refusing to offer their services due to the illegal nature of their business, according to a Deutsche Welle report.

Wash your hands often to keep Covid-19 away, but most Indians can't afford the water

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In Chennai, water tanker supply in some areas has been reduced by up to 50%, a source told Business Insider. And this city literally ran out of water last year, exposing a large crisis.

In Hyderabad, some areas receive one water tanker every alternate day. In other areas, the water tanker suppliers hiked the prices by as much as 20%, a source told Business Insider. These hikes usually happen during summers, but this time around, the extra hand washing worsened the problem.

Water is more important than social distancing

In areas without piped water connections, households depend on water tankers. Typically, water tankers enter the area and park themselves in the middle. Men and women gather around with buckets and utensils to collect water.
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Wash your hands often to keep Covid-19 away, but most Indians can't afford the water

For them, getting a water tanker is more important than social distancing. Fights often break out in times of acute water shortage – this is more prevalent in the summer season which is currently peaking in India.

Despite the severe threat it poses, Coronavirus does not take priority over water for these people.

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See also:

Ensure adequate water supply in rural areas during lockdown: Centre advises states

Water consumption in parched Bundelkhand up 60 pc due to COVID-19: Study

Mussoorie, Devprayag and Darjeeling will be among the first Indian towns to bear the brunt of the Himalayan water flow drying up
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