Water-Borne Diseases in India

Travelling from north to south in India, you can easily experience the huge contrast in water availability and scarcity. There are places that have an abundance of water and others where water is the main concerning issue and women's daily job consists of sourcing water for their household.

Author Ajay Pal Singh Chabba -, 05.31.13

Travelling from north to south in India, you can easily experience the huge contrast in water availability and scarcity. There are places that have an abundance of water and others where water is the main concerning issue and women’s daily job consists of sourcing water for their household. Places with adequate water supplies struggle to sustainably manage the use of it while others struggle with the reality of scarce clean drinking water. Underlying this imbalance in water availability is the issue of water-borne diseases.

Towns and cities with an abundance of water struggle to manage the water efficiently, often leading to water collecting in potholes and or in the surrounding areas and going unused. This can have severe consequences as water-borne diseases, such as cholera, malaria and diarrhoea can spread as a result of improper management of the water supply as well as discharge. Looking at the figures, the Ganges provide water to over 500 million Indians – contamination of just one source of water could affect millions of lives in one go. Water contamination often occurs due to inadequate and incompetent management of resources as well as inflow of sewage into the source..

report by the United Nations says that more than three million people in the world die of water-related diseases due to contaminated water each year, including 1.2 million children. In India, over one lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually. It is reported that groundwater in one-third of India’s 600 districts is not fit for drinking as the concentration of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic exceeds the tolerance levels. About 65 million people have been suffering from fluorosis, a crippling disease due to a high amount of fluoride, and five million are suffering from arsenicosis in West Bengal due to high amount of arsenic. A World Resources Report says: about 70 per cent of India’s water supply is seriously polluted with sewage effluents. The UN reported that India’s water quality is poor – it ranks 120th among 122 nations in terms of quality of water available to its citizens.

Water-borne diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis and diarrhoea erupt every year during summer and rainy seasons in India due to poor quality drinking water and sanitation. Here is a list of the five most dangerous water-related diseases that occur in India, which are described as follows:

1)      Cholera

  • Cholera is a water-related disease, and is diarrhoeal in nature.
  • It can kill in hours if left unattended.
  • Cholera strikes when one ingests water that is infested with the Vibrio Cholerae bacterium.

2)      Diarrhoea

  • Diarrhoeal infection is spread through food and drinking water that has been contaminated.
  • A diarrhoeal attack can last up to 2 weeks and leave the person completely dehydrated.

3)      Malaria

  • Malarial fever is spread by the Plasmodium parasite mosquito that breeds in water bodies like lakes, paddy fish and stagnant water.
  • Malaria can kill a child who does not have the immunity against the disease.

4)      Typhoid

  •    Fluctuating high fever, exhaustion, sleepiness, diarrhoea etc are signs of typhoid.
  •    The infection spreads through contaminated food and water or through close contact with an infected person.

5)      Filariasis

  •  Filariasis is a parasitic disease and affects people who live near unsanitary water bodies or sewages.
  •  Filariasis is spread by mosquitoes that breeds in fresh and stagnant water bodies and is the host of the filarial nematode worm. This worm affects humans and leads to elephantitis.

For more information about the water-borne diseases, please also visit the blog on Water-Borne Diseases in India and Top 5 Water Related Diseases in India.

There is still concern about the availability of fresh and good quality drinking water to all Indians. If water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resource management can be improved than at least 10 per cent of diseases worldwide could be avoided.

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