Ten policies that must change-4: Water, sanitation and health
The water crisis in the country does not need much underlining. Several urgent measures are called for to bring greater equity in using existing water resources and augmenting future supplies. In most cities of India, roof top water harvesting has not yet become compulsory. Similarly, recycling of kitchen and bathroom wastewater has also not been insisted upon. The standard design of the flush tank, which is extremely water wasting has not been modified even in public buildings, not to say about private buildings. Water saving designs exist but their deployment as a part of public policy has not become evident. The filter water industry has ensured that the quality of water in public supplies does not improve requiring closure of the industry. The municipal authorities have succumbed to the industry pressure. The new government must undertake the responsibility for making tap water drinkable in every city within a year or two.
The building use license should be denied if functional roof top water harvesting is not practiced. In-situ water conservation must become the criteria for getting funds for other developmental activities. Sanitation has a strong bearing on water quality and health status. Unless severe fines are introduced along with recognition for keeping public places clean, India will never become clean. Habits can change quickly, as apparent from the use of mobiles. The littering habits can also change. More we tolerate filth and squalor, the more we will have it. Naturally, water bodies get contaminated and water born diseases spread.
Preventive health is far more democratic, affordable and effective. How many times have we got health messages in trains, on the back of the tickets or in our daily mail. Public media as well as private media allocates very little time on preventive health. Even the entertainment industry has not recognized the importance of embedding health messages in the script. Special awards need to be instituted for recognizing such mass viewership programmes, which contribute to improve the sanitation and health practices. Buniad, a popular programme of yester years had made some attempts, thanks to the charming personality of legendary film actor, Ashok Kumar. But, this goal has been abandoned subsequently. India can change its habits. The leaders have to overcome their inertia.