20% travel half km to drink water

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Drinking water is supposed to be one of India’s success stories — the government says it met its Millennium Development Goal on water five years ahead of time, and that its rural drinking water mission has reached every uncovered habitation. Yet Census 2011 data shows that 20% of Indian households have to travel more than half a kilometer for drinking water, and that this figure has actually grown in rural India.

Taps (43%) and handpumps (34%) are the two main sources of drinking water, followed by wells and borewells. While taps are the most common source for urban India (71%), handpumps are most common for rural India (44%). In ten years, however, there has not been an increase of even 2 percentage points in the proportion of urban residents with access to a tap. Over 20% of Indians get their water from unsafe sources including untreated sources for tap-users and uncovered wells.

In Bihar, less than 5% of households get their drinking water from a tap, while Assam, Jharkhand and Orissa are at around 10%.

Sanitation remains what rural development minister Jairam Ramesh recently referred to as ‘a disaster’. Close to half of households are forced to defecate in the open. Over three-quarters of households in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhatisgarh defecate in the open, while even developed states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Gujarat and Karnataka have 40-50% open defecation. Maharashtra appears to be the only state with some limited success at public toilets — 13% of rural Maharashtrians and 21% of urban use public toilets.

Half of Indian households do not have drainage connectivity either, and less then 20% have closed drains. Just over 10% of India has a toilet with a flush connected to a piped water system.

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