Saturday, April 09, 2016

Earth Day, Water, the MDGs, the the Global Goals and Laudato Si

Water is the foundation of life. And still today, all around the world, far too many people spend their entire day searching for it.  -The Water Project
Pardon the pun, but when it comes to water, is the glass half full or half empty (and becoming emptier?)  There is a reality that water supplies around the world are limited, and that we must act to ensure universal access to this precious resource. At the mid-point between  World Water Day and (Mother) Earth Day, we post this three-part series that examines a few current issues around the scarcity of water. In part 1, we look at the progress that has been made over the past 15 years and how much more needs to be done. What little progress has occurred could easily unravel with the effects of global climate change.

Glass Half Full: (The Millennium Development Goals and The Global Goals for Sustainable Development) .

First let me give you the half-full version of this scenario. Because of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), far more people have access to clean water in 2015 because of the commitments made in 2010.Goal 7 aimed to cut in half by 2010 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Here are the achievements listed by the UN.
  • The world has met the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water, five years ahead of schedule.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources.
  • Worldwide 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation. Despite progress, 2.4 billion are still using unimproved sanitation facilities...

The Gobal Goals for Sustainable Development, and particularly Goal 7 offer an ambitious agenda to continue making progress between 2016 and 2030. Here are te targets.
  • By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  • By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
  • By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
  • By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
  • By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate
  • By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
  • By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
  • Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
Glass Half Empty (but it could become fuller if we act)
The non-governmental global organization The Water Project does not mince words when it describes the current global water situation. "Clean, safe drinking water is scarce. Today, nearly 1 billion people in the developing world don't have access to it. Yet, we take it for granted, we waste it, and we even pay too much to drink it from little plastic bottles. Water is the foundation of life. And still today, all around the world, far too many people spend their entire day searching for it. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, time lost gathering water and suffering from water-borne diseases is limiting people's true potential. Education is lost to sickness. Economic development is lost while people merely try to survive."

The Water Project lists 10 ways clean water can change the world.(The actions become more challenging in the face of climate change)  Here is a video that goes along with the recommendations.

Laudato Si
Pope Francis addresses concerns about the drinking water crisis in Laudato Si an encyclical on the environment.  Here are some excerpts

28. Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production. Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity.

29. One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.

30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.

31. Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.[23]

Part 2 of this series will examine the controversy around comments by the chairman of Nestle five years ago that "water is not a human right" (and his attempt to explain his comment)

Part 3 will look at the recently released book 1,000 Wells, written byJena Lee Nardella

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