Water for sustainable development

World Water Day is marked on 22 March every year, reminding us of the importance of water for the sustenance of life on earth. “Water and Sustainable Development” is the theme for the global community participating in the World Water Day this year.

This year’s theme encourages the government and policymakers to consider a framework for water resource management that will lead to sustainable development. It also highlights the role of water resources to make a difference in the lives of people suffering from water related issues.

The theme is very relevant as the governments around the world are heading toward a post-2015 development agenda which is expected to prioritize the sustainable development issues.

So, what is the major role of water in the sustainable development agenda? UN Water states that the water resources, and the range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and inclusive growth, affecting the livelihood of billions of people around the world.

In this article, I will focus on what access to safe water means to the population suffering from the scarcity of water in Nepal.

School goers, mostly girls, miss early classes in the various parts of the country as they have wait in queue to fetch water from local resources.  It has lowered the chances of these school goers attending classes regularly.

UN Water data shows that on average women in developing nations spend 25 percent time of their day collecting water for household usage. Women would be able to spend their time in income generating activities if access to water is ensured. This clearly suggests that increasing access to water means creating more chances of employment opportunities for women.

Further, World Health Organization states that around 1.8 million people die of diarrheal diseases (including cholera). Of the total deaths, 90 percent are children under 5, mostly in developing countries. Nearly 88 percent of diarrhoeal disease is attributed to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene. Thus, water is health.

Access to safe and clean drinking water means a lot to every single person. Water is also directly linked to economic activities. Given the multiple usages of water in almost all sectors, UN Water says water is nature, urbanization, industry, energy, food and equality.

Nepal has pledged to deliver universal access to safe drinking water, basic toilets and hygiene by 2017. The government plans to achieve the National Goal (NG) of universal sanitation coverage by 2017 and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of 53 percent by 2015. The government has also been focusing on achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and promoting hygiene behaviors.

Nepal’s 13th three-year plan (2013–16) set by the National Planning Commission (NPC) has envisaged that 95 percent of the population will have access to basic water services and 15 percent will have access to medium/high level drinking water facilities by the end of the plan.

Meeting all the targets is an uphill task for the government. National Coverage and Functionality Status of water Supply and Sanitation in Nepal 2014, a report prepared by the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage shows that water coverage stands at about 84 percent and sanitation coverage stands at 70 percent.

The government has still a long way to go to ensure right to water and sanitation to all. Major problems include geographical barrier, financial constraints and willingness among the people for transformation in their behaviors. Poverty always poses a serious threat to meet the WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) target. Population under absolute poverty line often prioritize their basic needs —  food, shelter, housing – as these are more pressing than WASH for them.

Further, a lack of access to WASH affects women disproportionally, due to both biological and cultural factors. WaterAid states that WASH is also essential for their social and economic development, contributing towards gender equality andthe realization of their rights.

Access to water and sustainable development are inextricably connected with each other. Access to water and sanitation should be addressed if we are to alleviate poverty. There are many areas where the government, development partners and civil society need to intervene. Ensuring the supply of water to people is one of them. Let us all realize that the country cannot achieve sustainable development goal without ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

Lamsal is a Kathmandu-based communications professional working with WaterAid Nepal.

Source: pragyalamsal.wordpress.com and http://setopati.net/opinion/5939/Water-for-sustainable-development/#sthash.4HsHX8W4.dpuf

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