Unhygienic water is an abstract concept to many Indians and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social decisions.
The average citizen might not be able to influence decisions on a global scale, but what he CAN do is take small steps towards a sustainable future. For himself, his family, and for Mother Earth. How? By educating himself towards this urgent issue and the ways to tackle it.
Today is World Water Day 2020. I want to take this opportunity to raise awareness about waterborne diseases by touching on some of the most frequently asked questions about it. Come, let’s take a look!
What is a waterborne disease?
Clean water loses its purity when it gets polluted with industrial waste, human waste, animal waste, garbage, untreated sewage, or chemical effluents. This situation results in the water becoming unfit for consumption or recreation. It contains pathogenic microorganisms such as protozoa, viruses, bacteria, and intestinal parasites that can be transmitted in various ways; their unchecked presence and spreading leads to what is called a waterborne disease.
What are the most common waterborne diseases in India?
These can be classified based on the causative agent and the modes of transmission. Diarrhea is the most prevalent, followed by malarial fever, typhoid, hepatitis A & E, dysentery, and amoebiasis. The table below lists some of the most common diseases arising out of unhygienic water conditions.
How do such diseases spread?
Waterborne diseases spread due to the contamination of drinking water systems with the urine and feces of infected animals or people. This most likely occurs in public and private drinking water systems that get their water from surface water sources (rain, creeks, rivers, or lakes), which can be contaminated by infected animals or people. The germs in the feces can cause diseases by even slight contact and transfer.
What are the symptoms of waterborne diseases?
While diarrhea and vomiting are the most commonly reported symptoms, skin irritation, ear itch, muscle ache, sweating, respiratory problems, reduced visibility, and abdominal pains may also indicate the possibility of waterborne diseases.
How to prevent and/or treat waterborne diseases?
1. Maintaining good personal hygiene
Regularly wash hands with soap after returning home, after using the toilet, before and after preparing food, before eating or drinking anything. Take regular baths and cultivate a similar hygiene lifestyle in children.
2. Monitoring quality of water consumption
Do not consume untreated water. Drink either clean potable water or water that has been treated with water purifiers. Optionally, boiling the water with common iodine for about 10 minutes can make it safe for consumption.
3. Food consumption
Store foods at safe temperatures and for reliable storage times. Do not drink unpasteurized juices or dairy products. Wash and/or peel every fruit and vegetable before eating. Thoroughly cook all meats (meat, poultry, and seafood).
4. Proper sanitation facilities
Flush or discard any stool in the toilet and clean the surrounding area using hot water and detergent. A chlorine-based disinfectant is highly recommended. In case you are traveling, add antiseptic liquid such as Dettol in dubious-looking bathing water. When clean water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are an acceptable alternative.
5. Maintaining kitchen hygiene
Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils after contact with raw meat or poultry. Thoroughly clean all utensils, tools, and surfaces before and after preparing food. Always use hot water and detergent to clean the utensils, then rinse with warm water.
6. Keeping a healthy environment
Preventing collected rainwater from stagnating, clearing drains, and sterilizing open water resources regularly prevents the breeding of disease-causing agents.
Vaccines are recommended for people who are traveling in areas with poor sanitation or unsafe water. Take doctor-appointed treatments for immunization against preventable diseases like Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Polio, etc.
Avoid strenuous activity like traveling, exercising, or cooking for 48 hours after you recover from any of the above diseases.
What is the current scenario of water pollution in India?
Out of the 40 million liters of wastewater that enters rivers and other water bodies every day, hardly a tiny fraction gets adequately treated.
In a 2016 report submitted to the National Green Tribunal, The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has stated that 63% of all sewage flowing into rivers every day is untreated in urban centers.
Besides these statistics, there are many other concerns like water scarcity, climate change, and air pollution that exacerbate matters.
Even while we take Mother Nature for granted, we understand in our bones that she is the key to our existence.
We’ve staked our civilizations on coasts and mighty rivers knowing she has and will provide us with the one thing we need the most to survive - water.
In the end, the average citizen cannot depend on government policies alone for his survival. We must take active measures to curb water pollution.