Lack of access to safe drinking water is still not an option for millions, and the coronavirus pandemic only made this more difficult. Manipadma Jena / IPSUNITED NATIONS, March 22nd (IPS) – Prioritizing water policy and ensuring data collection and investing in groundwater use around the world are some of the key issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve development goals.
“If we do not prioritize water policy, we feel and declare that we are unlikely to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Sareen Malik, executive secretary of the African Civil Society Network on Water and Wastewater (ANEW), promising a high-level meeting water-related goals at the United Nations on Thursday.
Malik spoke with heads of state and government of civil society about the “implementation of the water-related goals and specifications of the 2030 Agenda”.
Lack of access to safe drinking water is still not an option for millions, and this has been made even more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic, according to speakers.
“Today 2.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed drinking water, 4.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation and 3 billion do not have basic hand-washing facilities,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during the interview.
“Water affects every aspect of life, which we can see in our current fight against COVID-19,” said Rutte. “Washing hands with soap and water is an important first line of defense against human-to-human virus transmission.”
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), pointed out that there is a large discrepancy between data on groundwater management and data on surface water.
With groundwater providing water for 50 percent of the world’s population, this lack of data can prove problematic, said Dr. David Kramer, professor of hydrology at the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He explained the various negative effects of not investing in data when studying groundwater.
“Groundwater is a hidden vulnerable resource and is not physically visible, which can make it difficult for the general population and decision-makers to connect to this challenging resource,” he said.
“The need for sustainable groundwater is a key element – for global resilience to climate change, protection from the loss of ecosystems and defense against human deprivation and poverty,” he said.
He added that around 2.5 billion people around the world rely solely on groundwater for their groundwater needs and that “the lack of systemic communication about data information on groundwater is one of the major obstacles to sound management and governance”.
“There are 153 countries with transboundary groundwater systems, and this lack of groundwater progress does not support future international stability,” he added.
He also pointed out the manifold effects of groundwater on surface water.
“What many decision-makers don’t know is that in arid areas, small changes in water table due to overpumping or climate change can diminish or wipe out sources and wells that humans and groundwater-dependent ecosystems have relied on for millennia,” he said.
This lack of knowledge about groundwater, especially poor quality groundwater, could have serious health implications for users.
“I can’t tell you the recurring sad scene that I see in economically developing countries, where a woman trudges past a broken well with a water tank that she thought would give hope, only by miles to run to collect the water from a distant source. ” he said movingly.
ANEW’s Malik said her organization represents African women and girls who have spent 200 million hours collecting water.
“Your daughters and daughters will find themselves in a life of sickness and poverty if we don’t address the water crisis,” said Malik, adding that this affects women in different ways, including challenges with their menstrual hygiene management.
Political prioritization and “top down” engagement are key to solving this problem, and they put people at the center of solutions.
“Governance-based solutions? Yes, but also personal solutions, ”said Malik. “Proper governance water and sanitation is about challenging the power dynamic, putting people first, and making sure that policies and practices come from there.”
She stressed the importance of including women and young people in these solutions.
Meanwhile, Rutte said the global accelerating framework for Sustainable Development Goals 6: Water and Sanitation is an important step in the right direction. “We have to develop and strengthen capacities. We need to optimize and scale our finances, improve mainstream data, and encourage and replicate innovation, ”he said.
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