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Opinion

What a Waterful World

We must acknowledge clean water as a fundamental means to support growth and foster development and its scarcity as a powerful force generating envinronmental disturbances and perpetuating health issues and social disparitie. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Milan, Mar 9 2016 (IPS) - Water is the engine of the earth. It sustains all forms of life, and our species’ progress completely depends on the availability of water. The importance of this precious resource is matched only by the challenges that its scarcity and poor quality can present to the entire world, even the most developed countries. To better grasp human’s vast and complex relationship to water, we must consider its biological and social impact on individuals and communities.

Water hygiene determines the benefits or hazards water can bring to our bodies. As the fundamental force in the biosphere, water can also transform human societies, playing a central role in major issues like pollution, water scarcity-related conflicts, desertification, forest die-back, and water-logging of mismanaged agricultural lands.

Social problems related to water scarcity are often most pronounced in rural areas in developing nations. Only 15% of Ugandans have access to water on tap, inhibiting the progress of individuals and the nation as a whole. In rural India, to collect all the water needed for drinking, washing and cooking, people must walk miles upon miles while carrying on their heads heavv vessels, for which they often pay exorbitant prices.

Issues of water access and hygiene are global in scale: one in three people lack access to a toilet. Women are disproportionately impacted by social issues surrounding water: in some countries, cultural norms forbid women relieve themselves during the day, leaving these women to wait until nightfall. For the girls worldwide that are fortunate enough to attend school, only half attend schools with toilets, posing major risks to their health and safety.

Nearly half of the world’s total workers work in direct contact with water. Many of these 1.5 billion people are not protected by basic labour rights, while they provide us with one of our most basic needs. We must work to protect the lives of those who provide us with life.

Water-related problems remain unresolved globally, largely because many people underestimate the scope and complexity of these challenges. We must acknowledge clean water as a fundamental means to support growth and foster development and its scarcity as a powerful force generating environmental disturbances and perpetuating health issues and social disparities.

Though we should acknowlege water’s importance to our world every day, World Water Day provides us with an opportunity to recognize one of earth’s most precious elements. Since its proposal by the UN Conference in 1992, World Water Day is celebrated every 22nd of March, focusing on different issues related to water each year.

In 1998, UNICEF led World Water Day with the theme “The Invisible Resources,” focusing on groundwater sources for drinking supply among other uses. In 2003, coordinated by the UNEP, World Water Day was themed “Water for Future” and emphasized mantaining and improving the quality and quantity of fresh water available to future generations. In 2015, important actors like the WWAP, UNESCO, HABITAT, UNEP, World Bank and UN-DESA supported UNDP to plan a World Water Day focused on sustainable development.

This year, the United Nations will to look at from an economic perspective with a World Water Day theme of “Better water, Better Jobs.” This conference will explore how workers’ lives and livelihoods can be improved by the right quantity and quality of water and how water can even transform societies and economies. But as Ban Ki-Moon has noted, “climate change, demographics, water, food, energy, global health, women’s empowerment – these issues are all intertwined. We cannot look at one strand in isolation. Instead, we must examine how these strands are woven together.” The issues that face our earth and our global community have one common thread: water flows everywhere and through everything.

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