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She spends an hour a day to collect water: survey

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Usual sight: Women waiting for water tankers in Bangalore.
Usual sight: Women waiting for water tankers in Bangalore.

Divya Gandhi

State-wide survey says this negatively impacts family health, children’s education

Bangalore: Women waiting in winding queues at public taps, plastic pots in hand, may be all too common an image in Karnataka where water supply is notoriously erratic. Now, here is a figure that confirms that women and girls indeed pay the price for the State’s poor domestic water supply.

No less that 90 per cent of those who collect water from outside their houses are women and children — each spending 56 minutes on an average carrying out this daily task for their household — reveals a recent State-wide water survey conducted by Arghyam charitable foundation. The survey was carried out in 17,200 households in rural areas in 86 taluks across the State. As much as 72 per cent of the group comprised adult women, 10 per cent girls and 8 per cent boys.

For women, it may mean a loss of daily wages, not to mention impact of the drudgery, adviser to Arghyam, S. Vishwanath said. For children, it could mean absence from school, he added. “Unfortunately it is taken for granted that domestic water is the responsibility of the women of the household,” stated the report that added that poor domestic water facilities have a broader impact on the health and finances of the family.

In Karnataka’s 14 “backward” taluks 7 per cent of the population walk over 1.6 km to collect water, while in other taluks, 3 per cent walk the same distance, according to the report. “These statistics also show the double standards in water supply in rural and urban areas,” said Mr. Vishwanath. “In urban areas, the national water supply standards stipulate 135 litres per person per day (lpcd), delivered to their home. For rural areas, the requirement is just 55 lpcd, which can be delivered 1.6 km away from the house.” Among those identified as “vulnerable” — pregnant women, people with disability, elderly or ailing — 24 per cent had no choice but to collect water outside their homes too. The vulnerable population spends 51 minutes every day for this task.

Public taps, mini-water supply and handpumps (borewell) are the main sources of water, according to the survey. The majority of people (74 per cent) collect water every day, while 21 per cent do so every two or three days. Six per cent collect water weekly. “While the majority of rural households make do with the current water supply situation, erratic water supply and dry season difficulties result in almost 30 per cent having to store water to suffice for three days or more,” the report said.

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