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Water Wastage

  • Date Submitted: 08/09/2011 08:12 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 46.5 
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About half the world's reported cases of polio, a crippling disease virtually wiped out in Western countries, occur in India. Each year, diarrhea kills 500,000 Indian children. A jaundice epidemic strikes a small district of India's Rajasthan state as regularly as the annual monsoon.
Those deadly diseases and others that afflict India can be traced to the same source: drinking water contaminated by human waste. Infected water causes an estimated 80 percent of disease in India, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), making poor sanitation and inadequate sewage disposal the nation's biggest public health problems.
"Waterborne diseases in India are very, very common. Every year, there's bound to be a few epidemics of viral gastroenteritis, typhoid, cholera," said P.C. Bhatnagar, a community health worker for the Voluntary Health Association of India.
Fewer than 30 percent of India's 950 million people have bathrooms in their homes or easy access to public toilets. The rest routinely relieve themselves in the open -- along roadsides, on farmland or in municipal parks.
No more than 250 of the country's 4,000 cities and towns have sewer systems, and many of those systems do not have treatment plants. The bulk of municipal sewage -- even from such major cities as Bombay and Calcutta -- flows untreated into rivers, lakes or the sea.
Other developing countries in Asia and Africa have similar health problems because, like India, they cannot afford the heavy public expenditure needed to build sewer systems. But diseases related to unsanitary conditions have been more prevalent in India because of its huge population, according to analysts.
"If you look at waterborne diseases, the largest burden of disease is here," said John Pospisilik, an environmental engineer at the WHO office here in New Delhi, the capital.
For two years, India has participated in a WHO campaign to eradicate polio by 2000 through universal vaccination. The government also has joined...


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