New Delhi, Mar 20 : Vice President Hamid Ansari today said that sanitation remains a major challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure sustainable development.
Addressing at a function to mark World Water Day here, Ansari said, "India has achieved success in ensuring water supply in rural areas in past few years, but still many initiatives will have to be taken to solve water related issues at all levels."
He also said that that the last three decades have witnessed an impressive effort to provide access to safe drinking water to Indian households, adding that it is heartening that while only 38 per cent of households had access to drinking water in 1981, that figure has gone up to 78 per cent by 2001.
"Much of the progress has been in rural areas, with the number of households having access to drinking water going up from a mere 26 per cent in 1981 to 73 per cent in 2001. This is a result of the National Water Policy," he added.
Ansari further added that this is an important Millennium Development Goal and only a third of our population has coverage with improved sanitation.
He also said that this is far lower than the global coverage of 58 per cent, the developing countries' coverage of 49 per cent and even that of sub-Saharan Africa of 36 per cent.
"Ensuring rapid economic growth and undertaking targeted interventions have been the principle instruments in our poverty alleviation strategy. It is vital that our people have access to basic facilities including clean drinking water and improved sanitation for inclusive and sustainable growth," he said.
"These should not be seen merely as essential public services from the welfare perspective; they are critical determinants of economic opportunities for our citizens and pre conditions for sustainable long-term growth," he added.
Laying emphasis on improving sanitation facilities, he called for partnerships with NGO's and Civil societies.
"I am confident that the government would continue to emphasize provision of safe drinking water and access to improved sanitation keeping in view the developmental, environmental and public health aspects. We should also forge partnerships with NGOs and civil society as part of our efforts, at both the micro and global levels" he said.
It is estimated globally that nearly 1.5 billion people lack safe drinking water and that at least five million people die due to water borne diseases.
In India many people still don't have access to fresh water and sanitation services, which are a precondition for social development.
As Indian economy booms, the demand for water for burgeoning population of.1 billion People are also increasing besides sanitation leading to intensified water shortage in the country.
The problem is aggravated as India lacks infrastructure to store water. ndia's per capita storage of water is only one-fifth in countries such as China and Mexico.
Experts warn the water table in the country has already fallen dramatically and if the problem is not adequately addressed, the country could face grave water shortages in future.
The event is being organised by the Ministry of Water Resources.
In pursuance of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution, March 22 is observed every year as the World Water Day. However, this year, the UN has decided to observe the World Water Day on March 20.