22 May 2023

Study on domestic water security from aspects of gender, social inequities, and water management

The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), the national flagship programme of the Government of India (building on the National Rural Drinking Water Programme – NRDWP) envisions safe and adequate drinking water for all, always, in rural India.  It aims to ensure that by 2022, at least 90 per cent of rural households are provided with piped water supply; at least 80 per cent of rural households have piped water supply with household connections, less than 10 per cent use public taps and less than 10 per cent use hand–pumps or other safe and adequate private water sources. Rajasthan has only 1.16 per cent of the total surface water available in India, though it covers more than 10.4 per cent of the country’s geographical area, supporting more than 5.5 per cent of the human population and 18.7 per cent of the livestock.  Barmer and Jaisalmer districts in western Rajasthan are characterized by low to very low rainfall and excessively high aridity due to high temperatures. These factors impact safe water availability for domestic and productive purposes around the year. Moreover, the region is characterized by a  number of fringe habitations (known as “dhani”), populated sparsely, and extending to a radius of 10 km or more. With limited resources at the grassroots level, techno–economic viability for setting up a water supply network in these areas is a major challenge. As noted earlier, fewer than 5 per cent of households in the two districts have tap connections.   The rationale for the study was the need to generate adequate evidence to inform the development of an equity-focused, gender-trans water security strategy, which in turn can inform the implementation plans (with a special focus on western Rajasthan) led by the Government of Rajasthan in line with the JJM. The study's findings can be used at the state level, to help guide policy directives and the programmatic framework for water governance and at the District or Gram Panchayat level for strengthening operational measures and demand-side management. The study used the qualitative research approach with the aim of gaining insights through discussions with community groups, stakeholder consultations and a review of secondary literature. 
18 May 2023

Bottleneck analysis of hand hygiene programming

Hand hygiene, particularly, handwashing with soap, is recognized as a highly cost-effective public health intervention, which has the potential to reduce disease burden globally significantly. Handwashing with soap at five critical times- after defecation, after handling a child’s faeces, before feeding infants/children, before eating and before food preparation is estimated to reduce diarrheal diseases by 47 per cent and respiratory infections by 23 per cent, thereby meaningfully contributing to reductions in infant and child mortality. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand hygiene has become a critical need of the hour to save human lives.   Improving handwashing practices greatly depend on the availability of an adequate supply of water. Having said that, only 54.2 per cent of households in India have a Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) as of October 2022. Most of the available data on handwashing in India shows that critical data gaps in the sector limit consistent programming supporting hand hygiene.  Given the context, this study was envisaged to assess the status of hand hygiene practice in rural India and undertake a bottleneck analysis of the enabling environment (policies and strategies, institutional arrangements, programmes, capacities) that hinders the upscaling of hand hygiene (HH) practice, and provide recommendations to improve the policies, strategies, and operational approaches of key stakeholders comprising of the technical and operational duty bearers.
18 May 2023

Weekly surveillance of wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 gene detection for pandemic curve monitoring

This study was conducted as a weekly surveillance of wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 to gather evidence about the COVID-19 situation at the community level. The surveillance study was carried out in the Ahmedabad city of Gujarat state in India.   Given that up to 67 per cent of infected people showed SARS-CoV2 presence in faeces, alternative approaches such as wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) surveillance has gained loads of recognition as a viable option that can provide early warning of the upcoming prevalence of the disease within a community. One of the advantages of WBE is that wastewater contains faeces from a huge number of people. Therefore, it may require a far fewer number samples and less labour than clinical testing to know the presence of infected persons in the area. Overall, wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is a promising approach to understand the status of the disease outbreak in a certain catchment by monitoring the viral load in the wastewater, as it contains the excretion from both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. WBE had been an effective tool during past outbreak of other enteric viruses, such as poliovirus, hepatitis A and norovirus, it can be used as an early warning tool for the disease outbreak in a community and used to inform the efficacy of the current public health interventions. WBE data can help to estimate actual infected population due to the virus, as it covers asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients too, which may be underestimated by clinical surveillance.  For this study, wastewater samples were collected from nine different locations, including eight wastewater pumping stations and a single sewage treatment plant. The samples were collected weekly for twenty-five weeks from each location during September 2020 to February 2021