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Accessibility to drinking water has increased for the poor: NSSO

Accessibility to potable water improved for the poor in the country between 2009 and 2012, particularly in rural areas, said a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report.

Around 27 per cent of those belonging to the bottom section (0-20 quintile) in rural areas had exclusive supply of drinking water in 2012 compared to 19 per cent in 2008-09. It was 34 per cent for all classes in villages.

The report is based on the 69th round of the NSSO, covering July-December 2012. The comparison was with the 65th round, covering July 2008 to June 2009.

A third of the poorest urban population had exclusive supply of drinking water in 2012 against 28.5 per cent in 2008-09.

Experts said as remittances to the rural population go up, people improve their supply of drinking water. “The first thing that the people in rural areas do when their remittances increase is to install their own handpumps for drinking water,” said Bharat Shah, principal researcher at International Water Management Institute.

Among the major states, Chhattisgarh had the lowest such share in rural areas (9.3 per cent) and Assam the highest (73.3 per cent), of households having exclusive access to drinking water. Among major states in urban parts, Tamil Nadu had the lowest (27.4 per cent) and Himachal Pradesh the highest (71 per cent).

There was a considerable rise in the usage of bottled water for drinking purposes, with it doubling in both the urban and rural areas.

In rural parts, 1.6 per cent of households used bottled water as their principal source in 2012 compared to 0.5 per cent in 2008-09. In urban areas, 5.2 per cent of households relied on bottled water against 2.7 per cent in 2008-09.

Shah said the poor quality of water in certain water-logged areas of rural India could be a reason. In urban areas, this is mainly due to increase in income levels.

For the majority of villagers, tubewells were the prime source of drinking water (52.4 per cent). For urban counterparts, almost 70 per cent of the population was dependent on public taps.

The report said a majority of urban households (54 per cent) had to pay water charges, compared to only 20 per cent in rural areas in 2012. There was no comparative figure for this, as the earlier survey had not collected this information.

Among states, Goa (76 per cent) and Gujarat (59 per cent) had the highest proportion of rural population paying for getting water. The lowest share of those who paid water charges was found in Jharkhand (1.3 per cent) and Bihar (1.4 per cent).

In urban areas, Goa (96 per cent) and Jammu and Kashmir (84 per cent) had the highest proportion of those paying water charges. Bihar (four per cent) and West Bengal (12 per cent) had the lowest share.


  • 27% of poorest rural households had exclusive supply of water in 2012 compared to 19% in 2008-09
  • 33% of poorest urban population had exclusive supply of water in 2012, up from 28.5% in 2008-09
  • 1.6% of rural and 5.2% of urban households used bottled water in 2012 against 0.5% and 2.7%, respectively, three years ago
  • 54% of urban households had to pay water charges compared to 20% of rural households


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