“Water- a bequest of nature” bases all innovations in curbing water crisis to make our blue planet green and sustainable.
Our water is under fire! The plausible repercussions are not just confined to environmental, economic, financial, psychological and global dimensions but have feasted upon the matter of LIFE and DEATH. We celebrate TODAY to remind ourselves of the significance of freshwater in our lives and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
March 22 is commemorated as the ‘WORLD WATER DAY’ as an aide-mémoire of Water and its essentiality in our lives. Let’s try to understand how this day came into being.
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
Founded in 1945, the United Nations is an international organization with 193 Member States. The purposes and principles contained in its founding charter and its unique international character give the United Nations power to take action on various issues confronting humanity in the twenty first century including sustainable development and climate change.
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) popularly known as Earth Summit was organized in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, unprecedented for a UN conference in terms of both its size and the scope of its concerns. It was the time when the UN sought to help Governments recognize the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that economic development is synchronized with eco-efficiency and environmental sustainability. A wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide – Agenda 21 was adopted during the Earth Summit.
Chapter 18 of Agenda 21 that sets out measures for ‘protecting and managing freshwater’ formally recommended the need to have an international day to celebrate freshwater. Resolution A/RES/47/193 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 22 December 1992 declared 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water with 22 March 1993 designated as the first World Water Day.
The countries are invited to celebrate this day, as appropriate in the national context, through the promotion of public awareness by production and dissemination of documentaries and organization of conferences, round tables, seminars, and expositions related to the conservation and development of water resources and the implementation of the recommendations of Agenda 21. As the convener, UN-Water selects a theme for each year in consultation and collaboration with UN organizations. UN-Water, formalized in 2003, is the United Nations inter-agency coordination mechanism for all freshwater related matters, including sanitation.
World Water Day 2018
‘Nature for Water’ was the theme of the World Water Day 2018 and explored nature-based solutions to the water challenges in the twenty first century. The aim was to harmonize ‘grey’ infrastructure with ‘green’ infrastructure wherever possible. The International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018 -2028 was launched to further improve cooperation, partnership and capacity development in response to the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2018 edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR 2018) was launched in Brazil at the 8th World Water Forum in order to inform policy and decision makers about the potential nature-based solutions to address contemporary water management challenges across the sectors, sustainable cities, and disaster risk reduction and improving water quality. The Report is the flagship publication of UN-Water on the state of global freshwater resources. The UNESCO World Water Assessment Program (WWAP) works in collaboration with UN-Water and other prominent institutions to produce the WWDR. The theme of the World Water Day and the WWDR is aligned. Organizations, individuals, governments also geared up for World Water Day 2018 and organized events around the world.
Leaving no one behind -World Water Day 2019
This year the theme for World Water Day is ‘Leaving no one behind’ with the central purpose to focus on efforts towards including people who have been marginalized or ignored comprising women, children, refugees, indigenous people, disabled people and many others suffering due to various ‘grounds of discrimination’ when it comes to accessing and managing safe water. ‘Leaving no one behind’ is at the heart of the commitment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to allow all people in all countries to benefit from socio-economic development and to achieve the full realization of human rights.
In 2010, the UN recognized ‘the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.’ Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognize the right to water for ALL people and sufficient funding must be fairly and effectively targeted at those who need it most. The theme facilitates and expedites the central premise of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) that ensures availability and sustainable management of water ‘for all’ by 2030.
The First World Summit on ‘Leaving no one behind’ set the ball rolling for the events surrounding World Water Day 2019 and UN-Water campaign ‘whoever you are, wherever you are, water is your human right’. The summit was organized in Geneva on 7-8 February 2019 and provided a platform for discussing technical and governance solutions pertaining to the theme by bringing projects, governance leaders and funding agencies together in an engaging manner. These projects and their perceptible outcomes would be presented at forthcoming high-level events as workable way-outs to solve some of the challenges of people who are left behind in the least developed countries. This event is envisaged to be held annually for the next 11 years corresponding to the duration of SDG Agenda and form part of the over-arching campaign to achieve SDG 6.
Facts - WWDR 2019
“Improvements in water resources management and access to water supply and sanitation services are essential to addressing various social and economic inequities, such that ‘no one is left behind’ when it comes to enjoying the multiple benefits and opportunities that water provides.”
• Driven by the combined effect of population growth, socio-economic development and changing consumption patterns, water use has been increasing worldwide by about 1% every year since the 1980s.
• Global water demand is expected to elevate at a similar rate until 2050, accounting for an increase of 20-30% above the current level of water use while over 2 billion people still live in countries experiencing high water stress and about 2 billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.
• Worldwide, over 80% of all wastewater returns to the environment without being treated (WWAP, 2017). Several water-related diseases, including cholera and schistosomiasis, remain widespread across many developing countries, where only a very small fraction (in some cases less than 5%) of domestic and urban wastewater is treated prior to its release into the environment (WWAP, 2017).
• Piped water is the least costly method to transport water. However, it is far too often unavailable to the poor, thus aggravating inequality, especially in urban slums and in remote and rural areas.
• Of the 844 million people currently lacking basic drinking water services, 263 million people (4% of the population) spend over 30 minutes in round trips collecting water from an improved source, while 159 million people collect drinking water directly from surface water sources. Nearly 60% of the latter group lives in Sub-Saharan Africa (WHO/UNICEF, 2017a).
• Waterborne diseases remain a significant disease burden among vulnerable and disadvantaged groups worldwide, especially among low-income economies where 4% of the population (an estimated 25.5 million people) suffered from diarrhoea in 2015, among whom 60% were children under the age of five (WHO, 2016b).
“Improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in educational institutions can have significant positive effects on health and education outcomes. Improved facilities, coupled with hygiene education, can also reduce absenteeism and increase demand for education, particularly among adolescent girls, who may drop out due to a lack of girls-only toilet facilities.” (UNESCO, 2016, p. 308)
Global cost-benefit studies have demonstrated that water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services provide good social and economic returns when compared with their costs and it is likely that the benefits of improved WASH services for vulnerable groups would change the balance of any cost-benefit analysis that accounts for changes in these groups’ self-perceived social status and dignity. The basic principle behind selecting WASH technologies is therefore not necessarily one of ‘best practice’, but one of ‘best fit’.
Scientific development, good governance, efficient policy execution, inclusion of the marginalized and community participation is essential in improving water resources management and providing access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all is essential for eradicating poverty, building peaceful and prosperous societies, and ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’ on the road towards sustainable development.
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