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Groundwater faecal pollution observation in parts of Indo-Ganges–Brahmaputra river basin from in-situ measurements and satellite-based observations


More than quarter of underprivileged global population, who lack access to basic sanitation and clean drinking water, live in India. Consequently, every year, millions suffer with enteric diseases from drinking faecal-contaminated groundwater. The UN Sustainable Development Goal lists access to safe water and basic sanitation for all by 2030, as their sixth goal. For the first time, the role of economic improvement on decrease in water-borne faecal pathogens was studied across Indo-Ganges–Brahmaputra river basin (IGB) for almost last three decades, to delineate the long-term improvement trends of groundwater quality across India, as a consequence of development. Long-term temporal (1990–2017) and high-resolution spatial (administrative block scale, \(n=2217\)) datasets of water-borne faecal pathogen concentration in groundwater and satellite-based nightlight (NL) were used to investigate the statistical trends and causal relationships. Linear and nonlinear (Hodrick–Prescott) trend analyses, panel data analyses, Bayesian vector autoregression (VAR) and lead–lag causality (LLC) analyses were performed on aforesaid culled datasets. However, the efficiency of development in alleviating the water quality and public health, and relationship with economic development, has not been well understood. Here, for the first time, using long-term, high-spatial resolution (\(n=2217\)), annual in-situ measurements and multivariate statistical models, we show that the spatially variable groundwater faecal pathogen concentration (FC, 2002–2017, \(-1.39 \pm 0.01\)%/yr) has been significantly decreased across the basin. In most areas, increasing satellite-based NL plays a significant role (\(\hbox {NL}\), 1992–2013, \(3.05 \pm 0.01\)%/yr) in reduction of FC. However, in areas with low literacy rate surpass development. Enhanced decrease of faecal coliform concentration in groundwater possibly signifies the implementation of Clean India Mission since 2014.

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This study could not have been executed without the cooperation of the Public Health Engineering Directorate and State Water Investigation Directorate, Government of West Bengal. We acknowledge the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, for data availability. However, the ideas presented in this paper are those of the authors and have not been officially endorsed by the government or any other person or organisation. We acknowledge the efficient editorial handling by the Associate Editor and constructive review by an anonymous reviewer. We would like to thank Drs Tilottama Ghosh and Sohini Sahu for their constant support on processing of nightlight datasets. Special thanks to Swagata Chakraborty and other colleagues at IIT Kharagpur for their valuable inputs.

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Correspondence to Srimanti Duttagupta.

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Corresponding editor: Rajib Maity

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Duttagupta, S., Bhattacharya, A., Mukherjee, A. et al. Groundwater faecal pollution observation in parts of Indo-Ganges–Brahmaputra river basin from in-situ measurements and satellite-based observations. J Earth Syst Sci 128, 44 (2019).

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  • Faecal coliform
  • nightlight
  • Indo-Ganges–Brahmaputra basin
  • sustainable development goal