SDG 6 aims to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene while eradicating open defecation. It also seeks to enhance water quality, improve water-use efficiency, and promote sustainable extraction and supply of freshwater.
Throughout recent human history, the hydrological cycle has witnessed the evolution of human interventions, as they constructed larger engineering structures to alter the natural flow of streams and rivers. However, a paradigm shift occurred in the mid-20th century, highlighting the need for fundamental changes in our perception of water resources. Although past interventions yielded temporary successes in expanding the water supply, it became evident that addressing new and emerging challenges necessitates a long-term approach that reevaluates our relationship with water resources.
Since gaining independence in 1947, India has remained dedicated to ensuring access to water and sanitation for its population. Notably, significant strides were made after 1960, with a focus on clean water, sanitation, and hygiene education. Currently, India has achieved a score of 56.6 percent in terms of its progress towards SDG 6. According to the State of India’s Environment Report 2021, India slipped by 2 places to 117 in the ranking of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) compared to the previous year. Challenges related to SDG-6, which focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation, contributed to the lower ranking. Access to clean water and safe sanitation is crucial for public health and the economy, making SDG-6 of primary importance.
The Challenges Being Faced By India In Achieving SDG-6
India facing several challenges that require coordinated efforts from the government, civil society, private sector, and communities to implement sustainable water management practices, improve infrastructure, raise awareness, and allocate adequate resources to achieve SDG 6 targets in India.
Water Scarcity – India faces significant water scarcity issues, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. Unequal distribution, overexploitation of water resources, inadequate infrastructure, and inefficient water management contribute to water scarcity challenges.
Sanitation Infrastructure – Providing adequate sanitation facilities for the entire population remains a challenge. Lack of proper sanitation infrastructure, including toilets and sewage systems, especially in rural areas and urban slums, hinders progress in achieving universal access to sanitation.
Water Pollution and Quality – Contamination of water sources due to industrial discharge, agricultural runoff, and improper waste management affects water quality. Ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water for all is a challenge, particularly in areas where water sources are polluted.
Open Defecation – Ending open defecation is a significant challenge, especially in rural areas. The lack of proper toilet facilities, cultural beliefs, and limited awareness about sanitation practices contribute to the persistence of open defecation practices.
Behavioral Change – Promoting behavioral change and awareness regarding proper water usage, sanitation practices, and hygiene is crucial. Educating and encouraging communities to adopt sustainable practices and sanitation behaviors remains a challenge.
Infrastructure and Financing – Developing and maintaining adequate water and sanitation infrastructure requires substantial investment. Mobilizing sufficient financial resources, both from the government and other sources, is a challenge to meet the infrastructure needs and ensure sustainable water and sanitation services.
Are there any NGOs working towards reducing the ill effects of these challenges and achieving SDG 6?
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S M Sehgal Foundation
With a commitment to enhancing the lives of individuals, S M Sehgal Foundation strives to foster positive social, economic, and environmental change in rural India. Since its establishment in 1999, this sustainable rural development NGO in India has been dedicated to improving the well-being of rural communities. Through sustainable programs and the support of global donors and partners, the S M Sehgal Foundation empowers individuals and communities across 12 states in India, enabling them to take charge of their own development and achieve a more secure and prosperous life.
Water Harvesting In Agriculture
Under the guidance of a Tank User Group (TUG), the S M Sehgal Foundation, supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation, successfully undertook the desiltation and rejuvenation of a village tank in Karnataka’s Kolar district. Over four decades, the tank had suffered reduced water storage capacity due to heavy silt. Additionally, S M Sehgal Foundation’s Agricultural Development Program team works towards building resilience in agriculture, promoting water-use efficiency, soil health, renewable energy, and improved agricultural practices. Their efforts focus on empowering farmers, including women producers, to enhance crop yields, conserve water, and improve soil fertility, ensuring sustainable livelihoods.
Public-Private Partnerships For Safe Water In Rural India
In the arid region of Nuh district in Haryana, the availability of surface water resources is limited, leaving groundwater as the primary source for domestic and agricultural use. However, the groundwater in this area is highly saline and of poor quality, rendering it unsuitable for human consumption. Consequently, the villagers suffer from a lack of access to potable water, with some resorting to purchasing water from commercial tankers while others must travel long distances to collect water from government tube wells, ponds, or hand pumps.
To address this pressing issue, S M Sehgal Foundation has collaborated with the Millennium Alliance to implement a transformative solution. As part of this initiative, high-pressure recharge wells have been installed in four schools located in water-scarce villages within the Nagina block. These recharge wells are designed to create freshwater pockets within the saline aquifers, ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for drinking purposes specifically within the school premises.
The project not only focuses on the installation of high-pressure recharge wells but also includes a crucial element of community awareness and engagement. The foundation actively disseminates information and educates the local community about the usage and benefits of these recharge wells. By fostering understanding and knowledge, the aim is to encourage the community to adopt similar models at both the household and community levels, thereby mitigating water scarcity and salinity issues. Furthermore, such adoption will contribute to sustainable water conservation and management practices, ultimately benefiting the region as a whole.
Also Read : Challenges and Opportunities for Agriculture Development in India
Sustainable Agricultural Water Management
Narnaul in Mahendragarh district of Haryana presents yet another compelling example of the transformative impact of rainwater harvesting in rural India. Haryana, known for its agriculture, heavily relies on farming for sustenance. However, the depleting groundwater level in Narnaul posed a severe threat to the livelihoods of its residents. Additionally, the region’s geographical remoteness exacerbated the situation. In response, S M Sehgal Foundation and HDFC Bank collaborated to construct johads (redundant ponds) in Sarelli and Panchnota villages as part of the Parivartan Pariyojana initiative. This project aimed to enhance the water table in the area, bringing about positive change. Since the construction of these ponds, the local community has developed a heightened awareness and confidence in water management and its benefits.