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These Shocking Photos From Across India Prove That The Next War Will Be Over Water

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WaterAidEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #InDeepShit, by WaterAid India and Youth Ki Awaaz to understand the reality behind the inhumane practise of manual scavenging in India. You can speak up against this form of discrimination and share your views by publishing a story here.

By Anugraha Hadke

Water is just one of those things that you take for granted as long as you have it, but the moment you run short, your whole life can come to a stop.

It is surprising to see how little we seem to care about a resource, the absence of which can literally bring an end to life as we know it. The manner in which we waste water makes dystopic representations of water wars shown in movies like ‘Mad Max’ a highly possible future.

And we seem to be taking a step closer to ‘doom’ each day. According to a report by IndiaSpend, India is facing the worst crisis in a decade, with a severe shortage likely to spread out throughout the country. Seeing the rate of population growth, the amount of pressure it puts on resources, and the measures being taken (and not taken) to save water, India could soon face drought-like conditions in most parts of the country.

This World Water Day, let’s take a look at the extreme water conditions we are facing:

Women carry water drawn from a handpump at the village of Kalakhetar in India's western state of Rajasthan. Thousands of villages in Rajasthan are facing an acute shortage of water and animal feed with most sources of water having dried out in what is seen to be the worst drought in 100 years.
Women carry water drawn from a handpump at the village of Kalakhetar in India’s western state of Rajasthan. Thousands of villages in Rajasthan are facing an acute shortage of water and animal feed with most sources of water having dried out in what is seen to be the worst drought in 100 years.

1. Accessibility is a major concern in rural India, and women are primarily burdened with the task of fetching water, and 17% have to walk over a kilometre to reach the closest clean water source.

Women in Bombay line up vessels to fill water from a pipe June 23 as the delay in the monsoon has resulted in an acute shortage of water. The water supply in the city comes from nearby lakes which depend mainly on the four month monsoon rains between June and September.
Women in Bombay line up vessels to fill water from a pipe as the delay in the monsoon has resulted in an acute shortage of water. The water supply in the city comes from nearby lakes which depend mainly on the four-month monsoon rains between June and September.

 

2. While some official data states that 86% households in India have access to drinking water, the reality is far from it. These figures count hand pumps and tube wells as sources of drinking water, whereas the quality of water from these sources is a carrier for many diseases. According to the 2011 Census, only 2/3rd of homes have no facility for drinking water.

A man looks on as he collects items thrown by devotees as religious offerings next to idols of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, after the idols were immersed on Sunday, in the waters of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
A man looks on as he collects items thrown by devotees as religious offerings next to idols of the Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, after the idols were immersed on Sunday, in the waters of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

3. Owing to these numbers, India now has the largest number of people in the world who are living without safe water.

A boy takes bath from a water tap near a polluted water channel during early morning in Kolkata, India, June 5, 2015. Friday marks the annual World Environment Day. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - RTX1F794
A boy takes bath from a water tap near a polluted water channel during early morning in Kolkata, India. Friday marks the annual World Environment Day. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

4. The lack of clean drinking water has had a major impact on health. Of the 3,15,000 people dying globally because of diarrheal diseases, 45% are from India.

Fishermen search for offerings thrown in by worshippers in the polluted waters of the river Sabarmati in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 20, 2010. In recent years, the religious festivals and customs in India have come under increasing scrutiny as public awareness of environmental issues grows. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY RELIGION) - RTR2HFZN
Fishermen search for offerings thrown in by worshippers in the polluted waters of the river Sabarmati in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. In recent years, the religious festivals and customs in India have come under increasing scrutiny as public awareness of environmental issues grows. REUTERS/Amit Dave

5. Currently, there are 100 million people in India who live in places with polluted water.

A villager fills a bucket with dead fish from the polluted waters of a lake at Matado village, about 35 km (22 miles) west from the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 11, 2012. Thousands of dead fish were found floating on the lake on Saturday due to depletion of oxygen and polluted waters coming in from the near-by factories, village head said. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) - RTR36O85
A villager fills a bucket with dead fish from the polluted waters of a lake at Matado village, about 35 km (22 miles) west from the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Thousands of dead fish were found floating on the lake on Saturday due to depletion of oxygen and polluted waters coming in from the near-by factories, village head said. REUTERS/Amit Dave

6. A recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board states that at least 650 towns and cities lie along the banks of polluted rivers, which severely affects the quality of groundwater in these places.

Slum dwellers collect drinking water from a submerged hand-pump after heavy rains in the northern Indian city of Allahabad June 29, 2008. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash (INDIA) - RTX7GGY
Slum dwellers collect drinking water from a submerged hand-pump after heavy rains in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

7. More than half of India’s groundwater is contaminated, with 276 districts having high levels of fluoride, and 387 districts with extreme levels of nitrate, and high arsenic in 86 districts.

Residents with their empty containers crowd around a municipal tanker to fetch water in New Delhi, India, February 22, 2016. The Indian army has taken control of a canal that supplies three-fifths of Delhi's water, the state's chief minister said on Monday, raising hope that a water crisis in the metropolis of more than 20 million people can be averted. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX27ZAV
Residents with their empty containers crowd around a municipal tanker to fetch water in New Delhi. The Indian army has taken control of a canal that supplies three-fifths of Delhi’s water, the state’s chief minister said on Monday, raising hope that a water crisis in the metropolis of more than 20 million people can be averted. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

8. The availability of water per person (annual per capita availability) has been on the decline since 1947. From 6042 cubic metres, it has gone down to 1545 cubic metres in 2011.

A girl carries a pitcher after filling it with drinking water from a "virda", a small opening made by villagers manually to collect water, from the dried-up Banas river at Sukhpur village, north of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad May 12, 2011. At least 30 virdas have been dug up by villagers in the river. Villagers walk two and a half kilometres to draw drinking water from them, and they say it takes 30-40 minutes to fill a five-litre jar. Occasionally the villagers get their supply of drinking water from municipal tankers but most of the time they depend on the virdas before the monsoon arrives in the region. This year, the country has forecast a normal monsoon. Picture taken May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) - RTR2MLX9
A girl carries a pitcher after filling it with drinking water from a “virda”, a small opening made by villagers manually to collect water, from the dried-up Banas river at Sukhpur village, north of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. At least 30 virdas have been dug up by villagers in the river. Villagers walk two and a half kilometres to draw drinking water from them, and they say it takes 30-40 minutes to fill a five-litre jar. Occasionally the villagers get their supply of drinking water from municipal tankers but most of the time they depend on the virdas before the monsoon arrives in the region. This year, the country has forecast a normal monsoon. REUTERS/Amit Dave

9. There is not enough water to irrigate over 74% of the farmland in India, and this shortage is only growing. With unreliable monsoon, this is likely to create a massive food shortage in the country.

FOR RELEASE WITH FEATURE BC-DROUGHT-INDIA - Children from the village of Kankroli look for shells in the dried out bed of the Rajsamand lake near Udaipur in India's drought-hit state of Rajasthan. The lake has dried up for the first time in living memory. Thousands of villages in Rajasthan are facing an acute shortage of water and animal feed with most sources of water having dried out in what is seen to be the worst drought in 100 years. Pix taken May 4. SK/DL - RTR3UU6
Children from the village of Kankroli look for shells in the dried out bed of the Rajsamand lake near Udaipur in India’s drought-hit state of Rajasthan. The lake has dried up for the first time in living memory. Thousands of villages in Rajasthan are facing an acute shortage of water and animal feed with most sources of water having dried out in what is seen to be the worst drought in 100 years.

10. Going by current trends, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortage by 2025. Conflicts over water would cost us dearly.

You must be to comment.
  1. AS

    None of my friends who live in India seem to care about this catastrophe in the making.
    They are content to say that the monsoons are predicted to be good this year and move to
    talk about IPL and movies and politics.

    It is not enough if the rains are good this year and provides temporary relief. Water shortage
    and the resulting famine is a serious issue. Given India’s population, should a famine occur,
    the world does not have the excess capacity to help.

    Time to start thinking and acting seriously on long term solutions.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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