According to the JMP, 97% of the Indian population uses improved water sources and 63% has access to improved sanitation facilities. in 2015, India joined the international community in supporting the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Accordingly, India has made a commitment to ensure availability and sustainable management of water sanitation for all.

Despite the progress made in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, the Asian Development Bank forecasts that by 2030 India will have a water deficit of 50%, and the World Bank estimates that 21% of the diseases of India are water-related diseases.

India shows an important disparity between coverage of water and sanitation in rural and urban areas. Only 34% of the rural population has access to at least basic sanitation against 64% in urban areas. Comparatively, water access is more evenly spread with 93% having basic access in urban areas and 85% in rural areas respectively.

WaterLex presented highlights from the India Legal and Policy Mapping of the water governance framework with the context of the HRWS at the Safe Water workshops organised by FANSA (Freshwater Action Network South Asia) in Bhubaneshwar this November.

Although the State of India clearly supports the recognition of the HRWS at the international level and has ratified several human rights treaties pertaining to these rights, the management of water services is delegated to the states in India, creating differences from state to state. While the HRWS is not explicitly confirmed in the constitution, the Right to Life is expressed, and upheld by the courts of India to include the HRWS.

With respect to policies, there are national guidelines for water availability, but there is a need for improvement with respect to national standards for quality, facilities in public places, especially schools and hospitals, and recognising gender issues. Importantly, the ability to include marginalised people, particularly in identified urban slums and remote rural areas, is challenging, and needs more specific monitoring and resources.

The impacts of this legal and policy mapping are varied. At a minimum, the reports are made available on our website for anyone to view, and have been presented to the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur of the HRWS Léo Heller for his research ahead of his country mission. The opportunity to engage with the India local and national governments to present these findings through the presentations in November, have also triggered a series of actions, not least the engagement of the NHRC in Delhi to organise national training on how to improve governance frameworks for specific hard-to-reach vulnerable groups, where piped supply is not easily achievable. WaterLex also proposes to work on research projects with local NGOs in Odisha to establish baseline data to support the findings of this analysis, and to make practical recommendations for governance reform at both state and national policy level.

It is notable that WaterLex has also contributed to the draft State Policy for Children on the rights of the child in Odisha after invitation from these meetings.

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