Global HDR 2006 Notes India's Progress on Water Goals, Urges Stronger Action on Sanitation

09 Nov 2006

New Delhi, November 09, 2006: India is on its way to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on water, having made progress in enabling access to water to its rural and urban population. Access to sanitation is lagging and there is need to accelerate progress. This is stated in the Human Development Report (HDR) 2006. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-commissioned Report was released by the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in India, Dr. Maxine Olson, in the presence of the Union Minister for Water Resources, Prof. Saifuddin Soz, here today. The release coincides with the Global Launch of the Report in Cape Town, South Africa, by the UNDP Administrator, Mr. Kemal Dervis.

Introducing the main messages of the Report, Dr. Olson said the Report traced the roots of crisis in the global water situation to poverty, inequality and unequal power relationships, as well as water management policies that exacerbate scarcity. "All these fall in the domain of human action and point to the key areas where countries including India need to focus their attention. Water has been treated as a limitless resource", Dr. Olson said.

The UNDP Chief in India said the Report had powerfully resonated what experts know for some time now -- in parts of India groundwater tables are falling by more than 1 metre a year, jeopardizing future agricultural production. "While water availability as delivered by nature is critical, equally important are policies, institutions and infrastructure through which people secure access to predictable flows of water", she pointed out.

Delivering the Keynote Address on the occasion, the Union Minister for Water Resources, Prof. Saifuddin Soz said by bringing out the HDR on the theme of water this year, UNDP had brought the issue to the centrestage and this would definitely help in drawing the attention of governments, policy makers, development practitioners and media around the world to the emerging water crisis. Calling for increased and the right kind of investments in the water sector given its strong linkage with human development, economic growth and poverty reduction, Prof Soz said the challenge will be to invest in areas that not only address augmentation of supply and improvement in quality but also lead to greater equity and greater access to the poor. The present government is committed to bringing about improvement in this area as reflected in the Common Minimum Programme and the present 10th Five Year Plan. Prof Soz expressed the hope that the Government would be able to sharpen the focus in the 11th Five Year Plan on social inclusion and reducing disparities.

The Human Development Report 2006 argues that there is more than enough water in the world for domestic purposes, for agriculture and for industry. But the poor are getting systematically excluded from access to water by their poverty, limited legal rights and public policies that limit access to the infrastructure that provides water for life and for livelihoods. The 1.8 million child deaths each year related to unclean water and poor sanitation dwarf the casualties associated with violent conflict. Yet the issue barely registers on the international agenda.

India receives a mention in several sections of the Report in terms of how community action in water management has revived local economies. This has happened as a result of several grassroots leaders who have shown the way and led communities to manage resources, however scarce. Drawing on these initiatives, the Government of India has framed policies that enable and promote community management of water. There is scope for giving greater impetus to this movement and the Indian government is committed to this. Citing experiences from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Report says that equitable distribution of water and sanitation services is greatly enhanced when access and management rights are transferred to communities themselves.

Emphasizing the importance of community-government partnerships in clocking rapid progress in sanitation, the Report takes note of the work of the slum dwellers associations in South Asia – the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India and the Orangi Pilot Project in Pakistan to bring sanitation to millions of people, using the power of communities to mobilize resources. The Total Sanitation Campaign in Bangladesh has been scaled up from a community-based project to a national programme that is achieving rapid increases in access to sanitation. India is among the countries that have adopted the Bangladesh model, the Report observes and cites the success of Midnapur district in West Bengal in scaling up sanitation from 5 per cent to near total coverage as a result of this campaign.

The Report says that conflicts over water have been an exception and not the rule. It refers to the fact that more than 200 water treaties have been negotiated. Some of these treaties—such as the Indus Basin Treaty between India and Pakistan—have remained in operation even during armed conflict.

India has made some progress on the Human Development Index (HDI) value that has gone up from .602 in last year's Report to .611 in HDR 2006. On HDI ranking, India is ranked at 126 this year against a total of 177, going up one rank as compared to last year. India's rank on the Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) is 55 in a universe of 102 developing countries.

Read all press release on HDR 2006, click here