Every year, March 22 is celebrated throughout the world since 1993 as World Water Day with different themes. The theme for the current year is ‘Leaving No One Behind’. The pressure on the quantity of water has increased many folds because of population growth. There is a scarcity of water worldwide and on the other hand water quality has gone down. This necessitates awareness and cooperation all over the world among all. The day is meant for creating awareness that water is scarce now.
The UNO recognizes water as a basic need for sustaining life on the earth. In 2010 a resolution was taken which reads – “ the UNO recognizes right to safe and clean water as a human right – it entitles everyone without any discrimination to sufficient safe physically accessible and affordable water, for drinking, sanitation, washing, food preparation and other personal domestic hygiene’”.
Global water demand will increase by 50 per cent by 2030.The UNO has taken an ambitious programm to supply safe water to all people at working places, schools, hospitals, households factories and covering all marginalized people that otherwise means Leaving No One Behind, reducing the gap between advantageous and poor people without any kind of discrimination.
The target 2030 is to supply water in sufficient quantity and safe water to all sections of people taking special attention to marginalized groups –woman and children, refugees, indigenous people, disabled persons, aged groups by 2030.
The achievable targets in brief are — equitable access to safe drinking water to all; to achieve adequate equitable sanitation and hygiene; and to end open defection; special need for children and woman; improvement of quality by reducing pollution; to improve water efficiency; to protect and reduce water-related eco-system including maintenance of forest and wetland; to expand integrated cooperation and capacity building support to developing countries in water and sanitation related activities; and most important is to support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management. These all are integrated and coordinated goals to achieve the fresh water required to cover all the people on the globe by 2030. These are known to be Sustainable Development Goal-6 for all-round development of all water resources through the UNO agenda.
As of now, the picture of water availability is very grim. Globally 663 million people still lack in access to safe drinking water. Nearly 4 billion people, 2/3rd of the world population face water scarcity at least once a month in a year. According to one statistics, 700 million people will be displaced because of water scarcity by 2030 if adequate measures are not taken. Yet another statistics reveal that 2.1 million people will live without safe water at home. One in four primary schools has no safe drinking water facility. 700 children below 5 years die every day for diarrhoea. Eight out of ten women go out to fetch household water to distance places covering several kilometres. Globally 159 million depend on surface water such as rivers, lakes and ponds. Over 800 million women die from complication in pregnancy and childbirth. In eco-system, all are interconnected, forest, aquifer, soils, lakes and wetland provide natural water storage capacity, wetland and soil both purify water, rivers provide water and transportation and all these together contribute to water security. Globally, water is precious as only 2.5 per cent of the total water is fresh water and of this only 0.3 per cent is river and lake water, 30.8 per cent is groundwater and bulk of the available quantity is a glacier, the rest 97.5 per cent is salt water.
India’s position is not much different from that of the world as a whole. Water Aid Report 2016 indicates that 76 million people have no access to safe drinking water. The Asian Development Bank reports that there would be 50 per cent deficiency by 2050. But NC Hedge of the BAIF has stated that with the present river system, India is not a water scarce country in real sense of the term with average rainfall of 1170 mm. The real problem is that there are no adequate conservation measures. And the rivers are extremely polluted making their water unsuitable for drinking. Conservation is only 6 per cent whereas the conservation is 250 per cent in advanced countries.
Sewage water to the tune of 500 million litres is dumped to the Ganga and Yumuna basin. Yet in another report, 800 million gallons of sewage water is dumped from Delhi. Worldwide 80 per cent sewage water is dumped to the river system without any treatment. Traditionally, rivers are considered sacred in India since time of Vedic Age. There are srtutas in praise of rivers in the Rig Veda. One struta in The Rig Ved reads as ‘O sacred Ganga ,Yamuna, Godavori, and Swaraswati, Normada, Sindhu, and Kaveri, Please be present in this water besides me and make it sacred”. In modern age that sanctity has been completely lost by different human activities and rivers are polluted. India as a country has a special significance because it is home to 18 per cent population of the world but has only 4 per cent of the water reservoir of the world. India as a country is water-starved and 3,00,000 farmers committed suicide during 1995 to 2015 for crop failure due to non-availability of water. As the surface water is contaminated, thrust on ground water has increased both for drinking and agricultural purposes. And groundwater is over exploited. The ground water is depleted fast in many states. Another inherent problem is water-laden with Arsenic has poised health problems to 900 million people in the Ganga – Brahmaputra basin. In India 45,053 villages only have access to piped water or hand pumps and 18,917 villages till now have no access to safe drinking water.
Available water is contaminated by open defecation, 40 per cent population still defecate in open. India is falling behind the goal because of two reasons primarily, not being able to utilize the fund allocated due to faulty execution and management of the projects. Government, socio-cultural organizations, and individuals need to come forward to fund and in activities relating to rejuvenation of rivers and ponds. The Art of Living Society has already rejuvenated 33 dried up rivers and water-started flowing conservation of forest and eco-system are vital for water security. The rural and urban gap is reported by CAG report which shows that though Rs 82,000 crore has been spent between 2012 and 2017, additional coverer age is only 5.5 per cent of the rural habitations. Similarly, all the gaps of the sustainable development goal 6 program mentioned at the beginning of the write up pertaining to marginalized groups of all sections of people may be identified, all-out efforts are to be made to make the programme a grand success.
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