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Most Terrible Water Crisis Ever In History Leaves Millions Of Indians Thirsty

6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water.

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A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017.
A woman washes clothes as her daughter bathes in the Yamuna River on a hot day in New Delhi, India, April 24, 2017. VOA

Weak infrastructure and a national shortage have made water costly all over India, but Sushila Devi paid a higher price than most. It took the deaths of her husband and son to force authorities to supply it to the slum she calls home.

“They died because of the water problem, nothing else,” said Devi, 40, as she recalled how a brawl over a water tanker carrying clean drinking water in March killed her two relatives and finally prompted the government to drill a tubewell.

“Now things are better. But earlier … the water used to be rusty, we could not even wash our hands or feet with that kind of water,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Delhi.

India is “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history”, threatening hundreds of millions of lives and jeopardising economic growth, a government think-tank report said in June.

From the northern Himalayas to the sandy, palm-fringed beaches in the south, 600 million people – nearly half India’s population – face acute water shortage, with close to 200,000 dying each year from polluted water.

Residents like Devi queue daily with pipes, jerry cans and buckets in hand for water from tankers – a common lifeline for those without a safe, reliable municipal supply – often involving elbowing, pushing and punching.

On the rare occasions water does flow from taps, it is often dirty, leading to disease, infection, disability and even death, experts say.

“The water was like poison,” said Devi, who still relies on the tanker for drinking water, outside her one-room shanty in the chronically water-stressed Wazirpur area of the capital Delhi.

“It is better now, but still it is not completely drinkable. It is alright for bathing and washing the dishes.”

Water pollution is a major challenge, the report said, with nearly 70 percent of India’s water contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.

Yet only one-third of its wastewater is currently treated, meaning raw sewage flows into rivers, lakes and ponds – and eventually gets into the groundwater.

“Our surface water is contaminated, our groundwater is contaminated. See, everywhere water is being contaminated because we are not managing our solid waste properly,” said the report’s author Avinash Mishra.
Loss of livelihood

Meanwhile, unchecked extraction by farmers and wealthy residents has caused groundwater levels to plunge to record lows, says the report.

It predicts that 21 major cities, including New Delhi and India’s IT hub of Bengaluru, will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people.

The head of WaterAid India VK Madhavan said the country’s groundwater was now heavily contaminated.

“We are grappling with issues, with areas that have arsenic contamination, fluoride contamination, with salinity, with nitrates,” he said, listing chemicals that have been linked to cancer.

Arsenic and fluoride occur naturally in the groundwater, but become more concentrated as the water becomes scarcer, while nitrates come from fertilisers, pesticides and other industrial waste that has seeped into the supply.

The level of chemicals in the water was so high, he said, that bacterial contamination – the source of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid – “is in the second order of problems”.

“Poor quality of water – that is loss of livelihood. You fall ill because you don’t have access to safe drinking water, because your water is contaminated.”

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.
Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater. pixabay

“The burden of not having access to safe drinking water, that burden is greatest on the poor and the price is paid by them.”

Frothy lakes and rivers

Crippling water problems could shave 6 percent off India’s gross domestic product, according to the report by the government think-tank, Niti Aayog.

“This 6 percent of GDP is very much dependent on water. Our industry, our food security, everything will be at stake,” said Mishra.

“It is a finite resource. It is not infinite. One day it can (become) extinct,” he said, warning that by 2030 India’s water supply will be half of the demand.

To tackle this crisis, which is predicted to get worse, the government has urged states – responsible for supplying clean water to residents – to prioritise treating waste water to bridge the supply and demand gap and to save lives.

Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.

Every year, Bengaluru and New Delhi make global headlines as their heavily polluted water bodies emit clouds of white toxic froth due to a mix of industrial effluents and domestic garbage dumped into them.

In Bengaluru – once known as the “city of lakes” and now doomed to go dry – the Bellandur Lake bursts into flames often, sending plumes of black smoke into sky.

The Yamuna river that flows through New Delhi can be seen covered under a thick, detergent-like foam on some days.

On other days, faeces, chemicals and ashes from human cremations float on top, forcing passers-by to cover their mouths and noses against the stench.

That does not stop 10-year-old Gauri, who lives in a nearby slum, from jumping in every day.

With no access to water, it is the only way to cool herself down during India’s scorching summers, when temperatures soar to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

“There usually is not enough water for us to take a shower, so we come here,” said Gauri, who only gave her first name, as she and her brother splashed around in the filthy river.

Also read: India’s bulging water crisis: Is it too late for us to do something?

“It makes us itchy and sick, but only for some time. We are happy to have this, everyone can use it.” (VOA)

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An Average Indian Spends One-Third Waking Hours on Smartphone: Survey

The survey, conducted online as well as face to face across top eight cities -- found that 75 per cent of the respondents agreed to have owned a smartphone in their teens

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Smartphone
The result of Smartphone addiction is such that 30 per cent fewer people meet family and loved ones multiple times a month. Pixabay

An average Indian is spending one-third of his or her waking hours on phone – nearly 1,800 hours a year — and three out of four respondent said if smartphone usage continues at this rate, it is likely to impact their mental or physical health, a survey revealed on Friday.

More than half of the respondents have never tried to switch off from their social handles and confessed to not being able to live without their phones while almost all respondents prefered having virtual conversations with friends and relatives, said the joint survey by Cybermedia Research (CMR) with Chinese smartphone maker Vivo.

“The results demonstrate that the dependency over smartphones has increased. While smartphone will continue to be the primary go-to device, users have realized that periodically switching-off would help benefit their personal health,” said Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR.

The result of smartphone addiction is such that 30 per cent fewer people meet family and loved ones multiple times a month.

One in three people felt that they can’t even have a five-minute conversation with friends and family without checking their phones while three out of five respondents said that it’s important to have a life separate from mobile phone and that could help them lead to happier lives,” the findings showed.

“As the ‘born in the net’ generation grows up as digital natives, there is a fundamental change underway within society — redefining relationships, interactions and the very fabric of human emotions and exchanges,” said Nipun Marya, Director Brand Strategy, Vivo India.

“This transformation is also an opportunity to harness and drive positive change, reinforce balance and responsible proliferation of technology and its usage among consumers,” he added.

Smartphone
An average Indian is spending one-third of his or her waking hours on phone – nearly 1,800 hours a year — and three out of four respondent said if smartphone usage continues at this rate, it is likely to impact their mental or physical health, a survey revealed on Friday. Pixabay

The survey, conducted online as well as face to face across top eight cities — found that 75 per cent of the respondents agreed to have owned a smartphone in their teens and of them, 41 per cent were hooked to phones even before graduating from high school.

The total number of respondents was 2,000 out of which 36 per cent were women and 64 per cent were men.

ALSO READ: Database Containing Personal Details of Over 267 mn Facebook Users Leaked Online

“For results based on a randomly chosen sample of this size, there is 95 per cent confidence that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 2.2 per cent of what they would be if the entire population had been surveyed,” said the survey. (IANS)