After reading this article you will learn about water pollution and its impact on health.
Water is among the most essential requisites that nature has provided to sustain life on earth. About 80% of earth’s surface is covered by water. The deteriorating quality of water is creating various problems for the mankind.
The growth in population, about 90 per cent of which will occur in urban areas, will also increase the demand for water for domestic and industrial use and treatment of wastes. Water pollution from domestic and human wastewater is the main cause for much severe water borne diseases.
The industrial water pollution is due to inadequate measures adopted in the industry for the abatement of pollution. Inadequate disposal of urban waste and open dumping of garbage contaminates surface and ground water.
Water and sanitation services are basic necessities of a community and are most essential conditions for development, as they play an important role in improving health and quality of life. Inadequate water and sanitation coverage is one of the most serious environmental problems. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the diseases in the world are associated with water usage or poor environmental hygiene.
In India, water pollution comes from three main sources: domestic sewage, industrial effluents and run-off from activities such as agriculture. The large-scale use of pesticides may have revolutionised food production, but these chemicals are responsible for more than 2 million human poisonings every year with a resultant 20,000 deaths.
Polluting a river is dangerous because generally, rivers are the primary source of drinking water for towns and cities downstream of the point of pollution.
Broadly, the causes of water pollution can be attributed to:
3. Disposal of wastes and wastewater.
4. Agricultural run-off and improper agricultural practices.
5. Religious and social practices.
According to the scientists at the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), over 70% of the available water in India is polluted. Only five states, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, generate more than 63% of the total wastewater in India as they lack treatment facilities. Sewage generated from 25 heavy polluting cities and towns account for about 75 per cent of the pollution load in the river.
The Yamuna with 200 million litres of untreated muck being dumped in it everyday by Delhi’s Sewerage System has become one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The increasing river water pollution is the biggest threat to public health.
The diseases commonly caused due to polluted water are cholera, diarrhoea, hepatitis, typhoid amoebic and bacillary, dysentery, guineaworm, whereas scabies, leprosy, trachoma and conjucvitis are some of the diseases associated with water scarcity.
All these could be attributed to the rapidly increasing population and lack of water resources. Inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities leads to higher infant mortality and intestinal diseases. More than one million children died due to diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal disorders in 1990s.
In addition, around 90 lakh cases of acute diarrhoeal diseases have been reported in India, Uttar Pradesh reporting the highest number of cases (Central Bureau of Health Investigation, 1996). It is estimated that 73 million workdays are lost every year due to water related diseases. The cost of treating them and the loss in production amount to Rs. 600 crores a year (Citizen’s Report, 1982).