New Delhi: Drinking water, the precious vanishing resource, for the first time merits an independent portfolio. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday created a new ministry of drinking water and sanitation that will be looked after by Mumbai leader Gurudas Kamat.
Kamat, former minister of state for home, will hold the independent charge as the minister of state of drinking water and sanitation, carved out of the rural development ministry.
The department of drinking water and sanitation already has a separate office in Paryavaran Bhawan in south Delhi`s Lodhi Road.
The acute shortage of drinking water is a raging crisis in India, particularly due to the drying up ground water levels.
This is mainly attributed to widespread pumping of ground water using powerful diesel and electric waterboosters in both rural and urban areas of the counrty.
Safe drinking water supply has always been a high priority for successive governments in India.
The central government had launched a programme to assist states and union territories to provide safe drinking water to all villages in India, help local communities to maintain sources of safe drinking water and give special attention for water supply to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Sanitation is another problem in India, particularly in rural areas. The level of investment in water and sanitation, albeit low by international standards, has increased during the 2000s.
According to a 2008 UNICEF report, 88 percent of the population in India has access to water sources. But only 31 percent have access to improved sanitation.