In today’s era when there is vast knowledge and awareness among people regarding the use of safe drinking water and sanitation practices, a huge population still suffers from lack of access to clean water in their respective areas. It is often the case that even when people do have knowledge of good hygiene behaviour, they lack the safe water which they need to protect themselves and their community.
The failure to meet basic needs of safe water and sanitation is one of the great tragedies of our age, with billions of people paying the price in terms of illness and poverty. Water and sanitation-related diseases remain one of the most significant child health problems worldwide. In some cases, these diseases cause premature death, but more frequently they cause non-fatal chronic conditions such as diarrhoea, worm infections, cholera, malaria, trachoma. Children who suffer constant water-related illness are at a disadvantage in school, as poor health directly reduces cognitive potential and indirectly undermines schooling through absenteeism, attention deficits, and early dropout. Without improved sanitation people have no choice but to use inadequate communal latrines or to practise open defecation. For women and girls, finding a place to go to the toilet outside, often having to wait until the cover of darkness, can leave them vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault. Additionally, the lack of adequate, segregated sanitation facilities for boys and girls at school discourages girls from attending full time, affecting their academic performance and perpetuating gender inequity.
Universal access to clean water and sanitation is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Safe, affordable, and accessible water and sanitation are prerequisites for people to live healthy, dignified, and productive lives, but frankly speaking, sanitation in Jammu and Kashmir is among the worst in India, with more than 54% households without toilets. Jammu and Kashmir is ranked third, the two worst states being Odisha and Bihar, according to the Baseline Survey 2012 of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation. Many inhabitants here have no alternative but to use contaminated water or at least water whose quality is not guaranteed. 50% of hospital beds across J&K are occupied by people with water-borne diseases. Lack of sanitation awareness among people is not just the only factor behind Jammu & Kashmir’s poor sanitation scenario. The law and order situation in Kashmir, along with connectivity issues and communication (telecom) barriers in the remotest villages, also are a factor for the limited sanitation coverage.
How much longer will we let this go on? Let me ask you, “Is this what society has become?” Yes, I will not deny that there are efforts being made, but are they enough? I don’t believe they are, and it is time we step up to end this ancient battle. People need to be made aware of treating water before drinking so that the burden of diseases could be reduced. Importance of safe drinking water and sanitation is the need of the hour. In order to maintain good water quality safe for drinking, the potable water in the area must be adequately purified by the Jal Shakti dept and it also should accelerate the process of supplying piped water connections to the underserved so that they also could progress towards living a quality life which is a fundamental right of every individual and is within our reach. Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centres. These are some of the most basic requirements for human health and all governing bodies have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them. Once we secure access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities for all, irrespective of the differences in their living conditions, a huge battle against all kinds of waterborne diseases will be won. So join me as I declare war, and if we work together, we will be victorious…Inshallah.
The writer is studying for an integrated degree in EVS at SP College Srinagar, Cluster University of Kashmir. [email protected]