NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than half of India's rivers are so polluted by human and industrial waste that the water has become unfit for human consumption, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday, quoting a study by the country's pollution watchdog.
The Central Pollution Control Board, which tested samples from 445 rivers between 1995 and 2011, said the water was not only undrinkable but also unsuitable for bathing in.
"The quality of river water has fallen dramatically between 1995 and 2011," said the newspaper report, adding this was largely due to the growing amount of untreated human waste that is being discharged directly into rivers from cities.
Homes and industry in India’s urban centres generated an estimated 38 billion litres of wastewater daily in 2011 — double the amount recorded in 1995, said the report. But less than one-third is treated before being discharged into rivers.
The report said the projected amount of wastewater from urban centres could surpass 100 billion litres daily by 2050, with rural India generating another 50 billion litres.
Contaminated water and poor sanitation are responsible for a large number of preventable deaths in the country, experts say.
Around 638 million Indians, more than half the population, do not have access to proper toilets and are forced to defecate in the open.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says diseases related to poor sanitation and contaminated water are a common occurrence in India, especially among children. Diarrhoea and respiratory infections are the number one cause of child deaths.