An analysis of five of India’s most populous states —Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh — which account for 46% of all Covid-19 cases in the country, as on June 10, found that lack of exclusive access to drinking water, distance to the source of water, poor sanitation, and handwashing habits were a challenge for households. Hence, preventing the
infection also becomes a challenge.
Nearly half (48.3%) the households (in urban and rural India) do not have exclusive access to drinking water and one-fourth of households access it through a public, unrestricted source (23.6%), the data from the National
Sample Survey’s (NSS) 76th round (2018) shows. In rural areas, less than half (48.6%) have exclusive access and 30.5% access public sources.
A family of four would need 40 litres of water — same as the government's allocation per person per day in rural areas —to wash hands if a conservative estimate of two litres is used for each hand wash.
“A high dependence on community stand posts and community toilets has both contributed to increased probability of exposure to the virus,” said V K Madhavan, chief executive of WaterAid India. “Uncertainty over availability of, or inadequacies in water supply that existed before has made practising hand hygiene that much harder for those residing in slums in urban areas.”
The health ministry in an April 14 advisory, issued following a Supreme Court order for a writ petition on need for clean water, said.“It is possible that demand (for water) during this period may go up and if people have to fetch water from the public stand post, supply hours may be required to be increased to ensure social distancing.”
While nearly two in three households in India have a source of drinking water at home or on the premises, the rest (34%) have to travel to access water, according to the NSS data.
Data: Census 2011