Indian Drinking Water

Right to Water

In many countries, over the years, Right to Water has been considered, explicitly or implicitly, as an integral part of the Right to Life and to human rights. Under fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution, Article 21 entitles protection of life and personal liberty. As early as 1984, the Supreme Court had developed the concept of right to healthy environment as a key element of right to life. In 2000, the Court had declared that right to access to clean drinking water is fundamental to life, and there is a duty on the State under Article 21 to provide clean drinking water to its citizens.


The Indian Drinking Water Standards IS 10500:1991 were formulated with the objective of defining the desired water quality for water consumption and laying down the acceptable limits for different kinds of contaminants. Taking note of the limited testing facilities that are available in the country, the IS standard categorizes various parameters as essential or desirable.


All essential characteristics should be examined in routine. The standard also mentions the desirable limit and indicates its background so that the implementing authority may exercise their discretion, keeping in view the health of the people and the adequacy of treatment. All desirable characteristics should be examined either when a doubt arises or when the portability of water from a new source is to be established. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed certain Guidelines for Drinking Water that have high recognition and acceptance all over the world.


Water quality problems in India can be divided into two types. Microbiogical contaminants like bacteria, viruses and cysts cause various water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, gastroenteritis and jaundice. Chemical contaminants may not have any immediate impact, but cause problems on sustained intake. The five major contaminants inIndia(their scale varies from region to region) are Salinity, Fluoride, Iron, Nitrates and Arsenic.


The Central Public Health Engineering (CPHEEO) has estimated the requirement of funds for 100 percent coverage of the urban population under safe water supply and sanitation services by the year 2021 at Rs.172,905 crores. While this may appear a huge investment, about Rs. 65,000 crore is already spent on health care byIndiaevery year which could be significantly reduced by improvements in drinking water supply. The improvement in productivity and the resultant economic growth are even more difficult to estimate. 


In this scenario, India needs to seriously consider the option of making Right to Drinking Water a specific Fundamental Right of its citizens and arrange water events and exhibitions in cities of india. This will ensure a higher focus and better resource allocation to make significant improvements in the drinking water situation in the country. This effort can truly act as a model for the entire developing world.