Impact of sanitation and socio-economy on groundwater fecal pollution and human health towards achieving sustainable development goals across India from ground-observations and satellite-derived nightlight
Globally, 1 billion people, mostly residing in Africa and South Asia (e.g. India), still lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Resulting, unsafe disposal of fecal waste from open-defecation to nearby drinking water sources severely endanger public health. Until recently, India had a huge open-defecating population, leading declining public health from water-borne diseases like diarrhoea by ingesting polluted water, mostly sourced to groundwater. However, in recent past, sanitation development to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been encouraged throughout India, but their effect to groundwater quality and human health conditions are yet-unquantified. Here, for the first time, using long term, high-spatial resolution measurements (>1.7 million) across India and analyses, we quantified that over the years, groundwater fecal coliform concentration (2002-2017, -2.56 ± 0.06%/year) and acute diarrheal cases (1990-2016, -3.05 ± 0.01%/year) have significantly reduced, potentially influenced by sanitation development (1990-2017, 2.63 ± 0.01%/year). Enhanced alleviation of groundwater quality and human health have been observed since 2014, with initiation of acceletated constructions of sanitation infrastructures through Clean India (Swachh Bharat) Mission. However, the goal of completely faecal-pollution free, clean drinking water is yet to be achieved. We also evaluated the suitability of using satellite-derived night-time light (NLan, 1992-2013, 4.26 ± 0.05%/year) as potential predictor for such economic development. We observed that in more than 80% of the study region, night-time light demonstrated to be a strong predictor for observed changes in groundwater quality, sanitation development and water-borne disease cases. While sanitation and economic development can improve public health, poor education level and improper human practices can strongly influence on water-borne diseases loads and thus health in parts of India.