World Water Day 2009

by Thilaka Ravi on  March 21, 2009 at 3:27 PM Health In Focus
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World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22nd in order to focus international attention on the importance of freshwater and to take concrete steps for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Initiated by the United Nations, World Water Day invites countries all over the world to implement UN recommendations and evolve useful strategies to tackle the current global water crisis that is even more serious than the economic meltdown.

The theme for World Water Day 2009 is "Transboundary waters—Shared Waters, Shared Opportunities." The theme draws our attention to waters that cross borders and connect us together—the world's 263 transboundary lakes and rivers and freshwater supplies below ground level in underground aquifers. According to the United Nations, using opportunities to share waters can "help build mutual respect, understanding and trust among countries and promote peace, security and sustainable economic growth."

Averting "Water Wars"

Together, all countries in the world share the responsibility for managing the transboundary water resources and preserving them for future generations. But with shrinking springs, rivers and lakes and with every country and every state within a country scrambling to satisfy its water needs, the threat of "water wars" is looming large.

The Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul this week, has ministers from 120 countries, green activists, scientists, engineers and campaigners discussing ways to kick start measures for averting a global water crisis and easing tensions between countries that fight over rivers, lakes and glaciers.

History offers instances where co-operation and not conflict, proved to be a favorable response to water management issues between nations.  The last 60 years have seen over 200 international water agreements and 37 cases of reported violence for the sake of water. There also have been ugly incidents of violence among states within a country -the classic case being the riots that erupted between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in South India over sharing the waters of river Cauvery.

Worrying Water Facts

      • 844 million people (approx. one in eight people) don't have access to safe water supplies
      • 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world
      • 1.4 million children die due to diarrhea resulting from contaminated water every year
      • 43% of water-related deaths are attributed to diarrhea
      • Every 15 seconds a child dies of a water-related disease

Global Water Crisis

"A growing shortage of clean water across the globe may lead to conflict and war, and endanger economic development." United Nations

Statistics prove that the demand for fresh water doubles every 20 years because of a rise in population and affluence. Unfortunately, pollution of fresh water sources, global climate change and sea water intrusion into ground water tables, drastically diminish fresh water supplies. With the onset of summer, in most Asian countries, the lack of clean water supplies and the  growing numbers of diarrhea patients in  hospitals (as is already happening in Dhaka), are pointers to the impending water crisis and its accompanying health hazards.

'Waste Not Want Not'—Rain Water Harvesting

The shrinking rivers and lakes in every part of the world are testimony to the unscrupulous way in which we have messed up with ecology and used up fresh water resources without a care for the future.

In many developing countries the concept of rain water harvesting is only now slowly taking shape after the ground water levels turned entirely salty in most areas due to unrestricted sinking of deep bore wells for personal and commercial purposes.

Now the idea of rain water harvesting has caught up in urban set up too with the government making it mandatory for buildings to incorporate facilities to harvest rainwater.

WWD 2009: Campaigns and Events

World Water Day 2009 campaigns are led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the support of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A week long World Water Forum in Istanbul with representations from all over the world concludes on March 22nd. The agenda of the forum consisted of a variety of programs including: -

      • International Water Technology Conference
      • brainstorming sessions on sustaining water resources worldwide
      • presentation and distribution of an Atlas of Transboundary Aquifers
      • International water and film events
      • discussions on topics such as, "Managing and Protecting Surface, Ground, Soil and Rainwater"
      • photo exhibition highlighting "Water as Bridge for Peace"

Non-profit organizations like WaterPartners enable people in developing countries to have access to clean water. This year, women from self help groups (SHG) in India rally to highlight the importance of water, sanitation and better hygiene among rural and urban communities. To create a buzz about World Water Day 2009, enterprising groups from all over the world have come up with attractive campaign materials such as documents and publications, posters and banners, videos, T shirts, e-cards, desktop wallpapers and display on mobile devices in many languages of the world.

Ultimately the success of the World Water Day campaign depends on each one of us in as much as we realize that water is a dwindling resource and that we need to refrain from wasting Nature's most precious gift—Water.

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Source: Medindia
Thilaka Ravi/L

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