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Even as India and the world worry about the current food shortage, it might be water that eventually leaves the nation high and dry. Here's a stat that should make you think before you glug down that next glassful: In a list of 122 countries rated on quality of potable water, India ranks a lowly 120. And although India has 4% of the world's water, studies show average avail-ability is shrinking steadily. It's estimated that by 2020, India will become a water-stressed nation.

The Constitution makes it the State's duty to provide potable water to its citizens — a mandate that remains on paper for many folks in 21st century India. Nearly 50% of villages still do not have any source of protected drinking water, say experts. Government stats paint a different picture though. According to the 2001 census, 68.2% households have access to safe drinking water. The department of drinking water supply estimates that 94% of rural habitations and 91% urban households have access to drinking water. But experts point out that these are misleading, simply because coverage refers to installed capacity and not actual supply.