Kochi: India has the highest number of --7.6 million--people in the world without access to safe water supply, followed by China and Nigeria, a WaterAid report said on Tuesday.
The people end up incurring high costs for access, which is primarily due to poor management of water resources, says the report 'Water: At what cost? The State of the World's Water'--released by the global agency to mark the World Water Day 2016.
The report placed India on the top of 10 countries in the world with the greatest numbers of people living without access to safe water, followed by China and Nigeria. Pakistan figures at the 10th place.
"Nearly 76 million people in India have no access to a safe water supply. Most of those people are living on around GBP 3 a day. If they have the opportunity to buy water from a tanker it can cost 1 Rupee (£0.01) per litre, sometimes double if supplies are scarce," says the report.
WaterAid, an international charity working on improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation, in its report says poor management of water resources was the biggest problem holding India back from reaching all of its population with water supplies.
Aquifers provide 85 per cent of drinking water, but levels are falling in 56 per cent of the country, it warns.
"Hand pumps are exacerbating the crisis in many areas by depleting shallow aquifers. Misappropriation in planning and execution of water supply projects is another key factor.
"And projects often use inadequate sources or pipelines do not reach habitations. As a result, millions of people get insufficient or poor quality water," it says.
The report further says communities depend on a single or distant source for drinking water, often leading to disputes and increased discrimination against the main water fetchers: women and girls.
WaterAid's analysis shows that in the developed world, a standard water bill is as little as 0.1 per cent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage.
However, in a country like India, a person reliant on a water vendor (tanker) for their water supply would spend as much as 17 per cent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply.
The report says for a poor person in the developing world with no access to safe water at home, buying the recommended 50 litres a day can be a huge drain on their meager salary.
"Many people have no choice but to compromise their health and dignity by using much less or collecting water from unsafe sources," it says.
Noting that the World Health Organization specifies 50 litres per person per day as the recommended 'intermediate' quantity needed to maintain health, hygiene and for all domestic uses, the report says, diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation are world's second biggest child killer - taking 315,000 children's lives every year.
"Fifty per cent of child malnutrition is associated with unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, placing a huge burden on fragile healthcare systems.
Businesses' productivity is hit hard by staff absenteeism, turnover and low morale related to lack of access to clean, safe water in workplaces," it says.
The report says the more than 650 million of the world's poorest people are living without access to an 'improved' source of drinking water.
"The price paid by these communities - in wasted income, ill-health, and lost productivity ¿ is extremely high, and has a devastating impact from the family to the national level," it adds.