The relationship between the U.S. and India has never been stronger, said U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary Robert Blake at an India Donor Roundtable, which focused on attracting the private sector to contribute to India’s efforts to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Indeed, last year, the U.S. and India established a Strategic Dialogue, convened for the first time in June in Washington, which is to "provide guidance to numerous working groups and dialogues already in progress, conceive new initiatives to confront the new challenges of the 21st century like climate change, and capitalize on new opportunities for cooperation in areas like food security and clean energy."
One of the greatest challenges is India's water insecurity, said Assistant Secretary Blake. Some 40 percent of households do not have reliable access to clean water and only 36 percent have sewage systems.
"The health impacts are enormous," said Assistant Secretary Blake. "Currently, water borne diseases... are the biggest single cause of child mortality in India. Increased focus on water, sanitation and hygiene... is critical for improving India’s public health... Lack of access to water, compounded by inefficiencies in canal irrigation, can pose threats to India’s food security."
With India’s continuing population growth and the predicted impact of climate change, India is expected to be water-stressed by the year 2020, said Assistant Secretary Blake.
Working partnerships with Indian and U.S. businesses and NGOs could result in new ways to address India’s water challenges. The roundtable, organized by Special Representative for Global Partnerships Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, aimed to make businesses aware of the opportunities, and builds on the growth of public-private partnerships that have advanced the bilateral relationship.
"Targeted investments in the water and sanitation sectors can have indisputable economic and public health benefits," said Assistant Secretary Blake. "The World Health Organization estimates that every U.S. dollar invested in water and sanitation in developing regions generates an economic benefit of 5 to 28 $.
With the help of its partners, especially from the vibrant business community, India can address its water supply to match its success in economic growth and food security.