Rural India lacks access to safe drinking water Need of the hour is to address the issue on an urgent basis and reduce the prevalence of water-borne diseases New Delhi, 07 August 2017: As per a global report released recently, about 63 million people in rural India lack access to clean water.Add to this the fact that only about 26.9 million out of 167.8 million households (16%) in rural areas have access to piped water. Studies have also found the presence of iron in water supplied to 30% rural Indian households. As per the IMA, iron when mixed with water, can cause respiratory system hemorrhage. Lack of access to clean water can also lead to multiple diseases. Unclean water can increase the prevalence of diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria, and dengue in the rural areas, not to mention other water-borne problems. India is one of the fastest growing economies and the need of the hour is to address the issue of water security on an urgent basis. Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association (IMA) and President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Dr RN Tandon – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement, said, “There is a strain on our country’s water resources due to various reasons. Providing access to safe water is one of the sustainable development goals and the government must increase efforts towards meeting this goal. Diseases can become rampant if people drink water that is contaminated or unclean. The presence of contaminants can result in adverse health effects such as gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with a weak immune system are particularly at risk of illness from some contaminants. Diseases such as amoebiasis, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid are all due to drinking unclean water.” It is alarming to note that about 140,000 children die from diarrheal diseases each yearin the country, as a result ofusing dirty water. There is “chronic underfunding” of vital water resources in the country and access to safe water is not necessarily the top priority in government agendas. Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “There is a need to supplement access to safe water withthe necessary tools, infrastructure, and preparedness to deal with the effects of weather and climate change, particularly in rural India. Awareness must be created on the need to drink clean water and how unclean water affects the system. Schools are a good starting ground for awareness creation and the IMA is already undertaking efforts towards educating children on public health issues through the Aao School Chaleinprogramme.” Some tips to prevent water-borne diseases include the following. • Always ensure to drink boiled and filtered water. • Store water in clean containers and clean them every day. • Avoid consumption of uncovered and openly stored water outside. • Ensure that the pipes and tanks that supply water to your house are properly maintained and clean. • Using detergent and hot water, discard or flush any stool in the toilet.