The high incidence of water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea are an outcome of the poor quality of drinking water in India, yet nearly two-thirds of the households across the country do not treat their water before consuming it, either out of ignorance or for want of resources to carry out the purifying process.
Boiling water before drinking, perhaps the safest and effective way to kill germs and widely recommended by public healthcare institutions and doctors, is not popular in rural India. Rather, some choose to just strain their water through a piece of fabric before drinking it, a process that can only remove large particles of contaminants.
Numbers in Bihar, UP, West Bengal alarming
The numbers are particularly shocking for states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, both for rural and urban areas, where an overwhelming proportion of people drink water drawn from handpumps and tube-wells that may contain various contaminants, including traces of harmful chemicals and metals.
Also read: Less than 2% of rural households in Bihar and Jharkhand have access to piped drinking water
In Bihar, over 95 per cent of the households drank untreated water, with just 0.1 per cent of the rural households and 0.6 per cent of the urban households reporting that they boiled the water. The survey found that 95 per cent of the households across Bihar drank water from handpumps and tube-wells, with less than three per cent of the households getting drinking water in their kitchens.
In Uttar Pradesh, where 81 per cent of the households drank water drawn from handpumps and tube-wells, about 94 per cent of the households reported that they drank water without putting it through any form of purification, with just 0.3 per cent of the households in rural areas and 0.7 per cent of the households claiming that they boiled their water.
In West Bengal, where 58 per cent of the households drank water from handpumps and tube-wells, about 85 per cent drank untreated water, with 0.9 per cent of the rural households and two per cent of the urban households boiling water prior to consumption.
These findings can be found in a recently released National Statistical Office report titled Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition in India . The survey was carried out between July and December 2018 across India.
Boiling of water before drinking was most popular across Kerala, where about 71 per cent of the households drank water drawn from wells; 86 per cent of the households reported that they boiled their drinking water. Boiling of water was also very popular in the north-eastern states such as Nagaland, Meghalaya and Sikkim.
Few electric water purifiers in use
The electric water purifiers that have become a common fixture in most middle-class urban households, have a negligible presence in rural areas. Just about 2.4 per cent of the rural households have electric water purifiers, with most of them installed in rural homes in Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh. In Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, less than 0.1 per cent of the rural households have electric water purifiers. Overall, 8.7 per cent of the households in India and 20.8 per cent of the urban households have installed electric water purifiers. Yet, for urban India, electric purifiers are the most popular form of treating water. Incidentally, just about 36.5 per cent of all households in the National Capital have electric water purifiers.
Strangely, the non-electric water purifiers that are not as expensive as the electric ones and are cheaper to maintain, are also not very popular. Only 3.5 per cent of the households across the country reported use of the appliance, which are most popular in the northeastern states such as Tripura and Mizoram, where more than 60 per cent of the households reported using them.
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