Over 3.6 crore people living in more than 63,000 rural habitations are exposed to health hazards due to drinking water quality problems like excess arsenic, fluoride, iron, salinity or nitrate.
Of this, 1,318 rural habitations are arsenic-affected, Minister of State for Drinking Water Ram Kripal Yadav told the Upper House in a written reply.
"As reported by the state governments under the Online Integrated Management System (IMIS) of the Ministry as on December 15, there are 63,378 rural habitations affected by water quality problems like excess arsenic, fluoride, iron, salinity or nitrate in one or more rural drinking water sources.
"The total population at risk as on December 15 is 3.6 crore," Yadav said.
The Union Minister also said there are 1,318 arsenic- affected rural habitations in the country which are yet to be provided with safe drinking water. The permissible limit of arsenic in drinking water is 0.05 milligram per litre.
"Due to prolonged consumption of excess arsenic in drinking water, dermal changes are characterized including in children by increased pigmentation and hardening of the skin that is combination of melanosis and keratosis.
"The most common sequence is the gradual development of sportted or raindrop pigmentation followed by gradual emergence of a hyper-keratotic chagnes. If not detected and prevented in the early stages, these manifestations may lead to cancer," he said in the reply.
Yadav said the Ministry has advised all states to commission piped water supply schemes preferably from safe surface water sources as a long-term sustainable solution.
"Since such projects take certain time, the ministry has suggested the states to install community water purification plants especially in arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations so as to provide 8-10 litres per capita per day of safe water for drinking and cooking purposes, quickly," he said.
Replying to another question, the Minister said there are "no habitations in the country without drinking water facilities" as per the IMIS.
He said some of the rural population living in 63,000 houses are "not getting clean drinking water" as one or more of drinking water sources at these habitations are "contaminated by chemicals" like arsenic, fluoride, iron, nitrate and salinity.
Yadav informed that the government has released Rs 2758.45 crore to states in the current fiscal for providing safe drinking water to rural areas.
The Minister said the government has prepared a "strategic plan" to cover 90 per cent of the rural population through piped water supply schemes by 2022.
"States have been advised to set up community water purification plants or provide safe drinking water through surface water-based piped supply schemes in all remaining arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations by March 2017," he said.