According to WaterAid, "Without clean water, people are denied access to opportunities that should be open to everyone, everywhere. Whole communities are held back while others thrive, simply because they don’t have access to clean water. This is a global water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis. The global water crisis stops people from having an equal chance to be healthy, educated, and financially secure."
As things currently stand, over 785 million people in the world do not have clean water around their dwelling perimeters.
This statistic translates into 1 in 10 people not having access to clean water close to home.
This, indeed, is a catastrophic humanitarian problem, the scale, perhaps, of which remains to be well assimilated by all.
WaterAid captures this scenario with the explainer video below captured based on a scenario of the girl child in Nepal.
Again, based on six of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all water sustainability initiatives must be geared toward ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.
The world cannot afford to deny the fact that access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene is the most basic human need for health and well-being, not now, not ever.
Given this harrowing scenario, billions of people will probably lack access to these basic services in 2030 unless progress quadruples.
On top of all of the above, the demand for water is rising owing to rapid population growth, urbanization, and increasing water needs from the agriculture, industry, and energy sectors.
Moreover, decades of misuse, poor management, over-extraction of groundwater, and contamination of freshwater supplies have also tended to exacerbate water stress.
With water scarce in some places, in excess elsewhere, polluted, or otherwise problematic, the United Nations addresses this week a global crisis that has been long overlooked even as the welfare of billions of people is at stake.
“It’s the first time in 46 years that the world comes together on the issue of water,” said Henk Ovink, water issues special envoy for the Netherlands, which is co-organising the UN Water Summit Wednesday through Friday along with Tajikistan.
“It’s now or never, as we say, a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” he told AFP.
The last conference at this high level on the issue, which lacks a global treaty or a dedicated UN agency, was held in 1997 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
“We wrecked the hydrological cycle,” said Ovink, adding that he has never been more worried.
"We take too much water from our ground. We pollute the water that is left and there is now so much water in the air that it is impacting our environment, our economies, our communities, through climate change,” he added.
There's no gainsaying the fact that the situation is terribly dire!
This means there is drought in some places and flooding in others, in a cycle that is worsening around the world because of global warming triggered by human activity.
In 2020, two billion people did not have access to drinking water, 3.6 billion had no toilets at home and 2.3 billion had no way to wash their hands at home — poor sanitary conditions that lead to disease.
These circumstances are a far cry from the sustainable development goals set by the UN in 2015; one was to “ensure access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.”
“We need to develop a new economics of water that will help us reduce water waste, improve water efficiency, and provide opportunities for greater water equity,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and co-author of a recent report that decried a “systemic crisis that results from decades-long human mismanagement of water.”
At the UN conference this week, governments and actors in the public and private sectors are invited to present proposals for a so-called water action agenda.
“The Water Summit must result in a bold Water Action Agenda that gives our world’s lifeblood the commitment it deserves,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
Some 6,500 people are expected to attend the conference with its more than 500 related events.
They include 20 heads of state or government, dozens of ministers, and hundreds of representatives of civil society and the business world.
Ahead of the conference, hundreds of projects have already been registered on its website.
The ideas range from building cheap toilets for millions of people around the world to improving farm irrigation techniques in Australia and enhancing access to drinking water in Fiji.
Organisers expect participants to make commitments, be they large or small, during the conference.
“Every commitment is of significant importance as it may bring… change for even one household, one school, one village, one city.
"As we say, drop by drop it becomes an ocean,” Sulton Rahimzoda, special envoy on the water for the president of Tajikistan, told a press conference.
Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the think tank World Resources Institute, said: “We cannot have only incremental progress, but a plan to fundamentally transform how we manage water for the new climate reality.”
Solutions do exist, he added, and “the price is a bargain.”
“Securing water for our societies by 2030 could cost just over one percent of global GDP,” said Dasgupta.
“And the return on these investments would be immense, from growing our economies to boosting farmers’ crop yields to improving the lives of poor and vulnerable,” he added.
To the extent that 'water is life', every initiative and sacrifice for making good water accessible to all in a normal way cannot be too much.
The fact that those enjoying this normal access cannot imagine how others don't hardly helps matters because they are not able to see how they can support these initiatives.
This is why all hands must be on deck to support laudable schemes by different groups and stakeholders geared toward realizing the 2030 target.
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