Why it is important for the government to invest in basic infrastructure namely, water supply and sanitation ?

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Financing water and sanitation Key issues in increasing resources to the sector Water and sanitation struggle to receive funding in the developing world, where governments are pressed with struggling economies, huge debts and a host of other socio-political problems. Most often, they have to prioritise other basic social services, such as education and health, over water and sanitation. In general developing countries spend anywhere between 1% and 3% of government budgets on low cost water and sanitation.

Water-related efforts in the developing world are often balkanized and not sufficiently integrated to ensure sustainable water services. There can be different strategies to ensure access to safe water depending on the country and its social needs. The different strategies may have impacts on reaching the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of the population that lacks access to improved water and sanitation by 2015. Water and sanitation concerns are of great magnitude.

United Nations reports suggest that 1.1 billion individuals, approximately 17 percent of the world’s population, are without improved water and more do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion, approximately 41 percent, are without improved sanitation. Even worse, many of the world’s school children attend a school without water or toilets. Not surprisingly, 40 percent of the world’s school-age children have worm infections, predisposing them to cognitive and developmental problems. It is further estimated that 5,000 children die every day from diseases because of lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

In many regions of the world, collecting water is primarily the responsibility of women. Women’s lives are further impacted by lack of water and sanitation because they are responsible for the care of children, who are affected by diarrheal disease. Women do not always have the financial resources to pay for water purchases, treatment, or new investments. However, it is not just access to water that is a problem. The lack of sanitation means that, in some places, women and girls must wait until nightfall to defecate, while in some nations more than 50 percent of girls drop out of school due to the lack of toilets. These disparities have additional implications for health, education, and human rights.

Thus, women and children place a higher value on water and sanitation. A study showed that microcredit loans provided to women in Bangladesh increased the presence of latrines in their household from 9 to 26 percent over three years; the control group showed a slight decrease in latrine presence during the same time period. Much work must be done in order to reach a global goal of increasing access to improved sanitation in many parts of the world.

With regard to standards for improved water and sanitation, it is important to recognize that improved water is not necessarily safe drinking water. Improved water access includes household connections, public standpipes, rainwater collection, boreholes, and protected wells, but not water vendors, unprotected wells, unprotected springs, rivers or ponds, or tanker truck water. Improved sanitation includes connections to public sewers, septic systems, pour-flush and improved pit latrines, but not shared, traditional, or open pit latrines.

Recognising the importance of water and sanitation a Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India has been created. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is the nodal department for the overall policy, planning, funding and coordination of programmes of drinking water and sanitation in the country. It is primarily working towards the objective of providing Safe drinking water and improved sanitation for all, at all times, in rural India with a mission  to ensure all rural households have access to and use of safe and sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation facilities by providing support to state in their endeavor to provide these basic facilities and services.

However, meeting the goals of universal safe water and sanitation is at some distance due to primarily financial, societal and governance related issues.

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2 thoughts on “Why it is important for the government to invest in basic infrastructure namely, water supply and sanitation ?

  1. Darshita, I found it interesting to learn how water and sanitation problem is cause of bigger problems like girls dropping out of school and children catching diseases. I remember reading parts of a book titled Freakonomics which gave similar non-trivial reasons for certain events. With a little more digging into data we can have a network of problems telling what is causing what and in what amount ! Then perhaps Govt. can truly priotise what it should work on first. This was really an interesting read. Thumbs up for another great piece of work !

    -Akul

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