World Water Day falls on March 22nd
every year. The theme this year is 'Water and Sanitation for Life'
It is also a time when the world takes stock of the looming water crisis, and confronts the 'watershed' issue- 'Is the world
running out of water'?
As we grapple with matters pertaining to water, it brings us to the subject of water
contamination. It is common knowledge that diarrhea, one of the greatest illnesses plaguing the teeming millions worldwide,
causing many million deaths annually, is caused by poor sanitation and consumption of contaminated water.
According to Jon Lane, Executive Director- Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, 'Every 20 minutes
we spend sitting in our offices, organizing meetings, passing resolutions and discussing policies, a child dies as a direct
result of poor sanitation.'
This mammoth problem can be prevented only if the sanitation ills in the world
are solved. It is for this reason that the year 2008 has been declared as the 'International year of Sanitation' and forms
the theme for the World Water Day, 2008.
Amidst all the economic development and technological advances, it is a
day that reminds us of the scores of women in different parts of the world, who tread great lengths, and spend many hours
each day to collect water. The magnitude of the problem is palpable in the poignant documentary, 'One water', which is
a realistic depiction of the impending water crisis threatening to consume the planet.
Experts see it coming, that
the greatest wars in the future will be over this precious, life sustaining resource - Water! Seven
Murky statistics About Water
Safe drinking water, which forms the basis of life, is not available to about one
billion people worldwide.
A child loses its life every 15 seconds due to water - related diseases.
million in a year die due to diarrhea.
88 percent of all diseases in the world is due to poor sanitation.
2.6 billion people court disease due to abysmal sanitation.
According to the WHO, 50% of the hospitalizations
worldwide are due to water- related diseases.
Poor sanitation is recognized as the greatest enemy, unleashing a
trail of destruction worse than any war. Objectives of World Water Day: 'The coming 12 months
provides us with a platform to prioritize sanitation on the international community's agenda.' -UN Secretary
General, Ban Ki-moon
The World Water Day initiatives will seek to iron out the challenges for access to safe
water and proper sanitation on a world-wide basis. This is proposed to be carried out by the following measures:
Ensuring that the world's poorest have access to the basic amenities of safe water and sanitation.
strategies on water conservation and re-use
3. Developing of sustainable and economically viable water and sanitation
4. Focusing on issues pertaining to school sanitation.
Gaping Hole Water and sanitation are two sides of the same coin, and are indispensable for national
Globally, the progress made in sanitation is patchy. While some regions like East Asia, Latin
America, some of the Arab states, and the Caribbean have shown remarkable progress, certain parts of South Asia, and
Sub-Saharan Africa have a long way to go. According to reports, China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nigeria are
among the worst sanitized nations in the world.
In certain parts of Nigeria, close to 1% of people live in homes
without sewerage connection. Almost 14% of rural India do not have toilet facilities or cannot boast of a latrine in their
homes. When the basic facility of a toilet or latrine is unavailable, people tend to defecate in open spaces, using the water
available locally from streams or lakes to clean themselves. Infection causing germs breed in the dirty water, and when
people use this contaminated water for cleaning and bathing, infections spread. Contaminated water spreads serious
diseases like typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
Despite such astounding facts, there is a great
reticence in dealing with human waste and its proper disposal.
Therefore, 'sanitation' is avoided like a 'dirty
word', and there is not much discussion about it in prominent public debates.
Mr. Toilet's Goal
Sim Jae-Duck, President of the World Toilet Association, fondly called 'Mr. Toilet',
came into the spotlight after pulling Korea out of its sanitation crisis. His passion for providing the basic toilet or
latrine to one and all
is epitomized in the architectural model of his residence, which resembles a huge closet.
Armed with ingenious strategies to find a solution to the sanitation issues plaguing the world, Mr.Sim Jae-Duck, said
'Worldwide 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases, mainly attributable to unsafe water supply,
inadequate sanitation and poor hygienic practices. The idea is to bring to the notice of leaders that however much they try
to tackle the issue of sanitation, and however much they try to reduce the number of people without sanitation, the goal will
remain elusive and the eradication of disease a mammoth task, if people do not have access to proper toilets. It is
about time the world community recognized this as a global agenda instead of brushing it aside as a triviality.'
Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who is chairperson of the U.N. Secretary General's advisory board on
water and sanitation, said, 'The AIDS pandemic has led to frank talk about unprotected sex and the use of condoms. It is
our responsibility to promote the same sort of open discussion about hygiene and the safe disposal of human excreta.'
The time is ripe for a sanitation revolution.
Every Drop Counts
Nearly two-fifths of the people world-wide are grappling with water shortages. While it is
impossible to increase the world's fresh water supplies, the only way out is to share and use it judiciously.
70% of the water in the world is used for agriculture, and it is here that innovative irrigation methods could prevent
wastage. Additionally, consumers must be educated to use water in a responsible manner. According to surveys conducted, water
wastage occurs on a daily basis in homes. It is estimated that the mere act of closing the water tap while brushing the
teeth, instead of allowing the water to flow, (which is the common practice) amounts to a saving of 5 to 10 gallons per day
for an average family. Attaching devices that save water in faucets and shower heads is also a good idea to avoid wastage.
Some countries have begun exploring the benefits of water treatment, where 'gray water', the water from washing
dishes and clothes is treated for reuse. 'Black water', which is water from the sewage, is also being treated for its use in
Desalinization has been around for sometime, but is a costly treatment method, employing high energy and
leaving huge amounts of brine for disposal.
Water and Sanitation for Life
Providing safe drinking water and enabling proper methods to aid human waste
disposal will have the greatest impact on national health.
In order to have a large- scale impact, it is important to
ensure that the world's poorest have access to the basic amenities of safe water and sanitation and also to streamline the
financial issues pertaining to water and sanitation services. A partnership between governments and private sector is
imperative to get the water and sanitation problems on track.
Additionally, awareness and education can go a long way
in establishing the practice of good sanitation and hygiene. Improving sanitation at the grassroots, adopting innovative
technology to treat water and employing water conservation strategies may be a three-pronged approach to carry the water and
sanitation goals forward.
Water and oxygen are two essential elements that can create life. Planet Earth is currently
facing a crisis of water and the world community has to rise to resolve this crisis before it takes a nasty turn and turns
into global war.
'Water is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.' Albert
Szent-Gyorgyi quotes (Hungarian Biochemist, 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine, 1893-1986).