HomeExpertSpeakWhy water is essential for a sustainable future, Anup Kumar Tripathi

Why water is essential for a sustainable future, Anup Kumar Tripathi

‘Public private civil society should come forward to use water sustainable plumbing products and instruments which may reduce wastage of water, encourage the usages of recycle waters for sanitation and gardening and use low-water consumption plumbing fixtures and water closets’, says Anup Kumar Tripathi, Country Head, Sloan India Private Limited on water and sanitation at the heart of sustainable development

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Climate change, extreme weather, health, rapid urbanization, water and sanitation, food security, energy and infrastructure are challenging communities around the world.  All of these are expected to be part of the sustainable future on this planet.

As we mark UN World Water Day on 22 March, it’s more important than ever to understand the vital role of water in unlocking this future.  Tackling water and sanitation challenges will create a ripple effect for a sustainable future as water is crucial to many of the challenges to our aim to address:

  1. Health and disease: Globally, 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities and 1 billion practices open defection, costing the world $260 billion annually (statistics source – water and sanitation program database). Closing this gap will help prevent water-related diseases such as diarrhea, the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Of the 60,000 children who die of diarrhea every year, 88% of deaths are attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and insufficient hygiene.
  2. Malnutrition and child development: In India, 90 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and almost 800 million lack adequate sanitation (source – wateraid.org). Poor sanitation, rather than insufficient food, is emerging as a key factor in malnourishment, which leads to stunting of growth in an estimated 65 million children in India under the age of five as nutrients and energy are diverted away from growth and development to fight infection for survival. The Indian Government’s ‘Clean India’ campaign has a target of no-one going to the toilet in the open by the end of 2019. Toilets are front page news and change is happening, which is a great initiative towards to the gap.
  3. Gender equality:Women and girls are more likely to bear the burden of fetching drinking water from outdoor sources. Surveys from 45 developing countries show that in almost two-third of households without a drinking water source on the premises, it is women and girls who collect water(source- unicef). In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water (source – UN report) – the equivalent of a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France.
  4. Sustainable Energy: Even water-abundant countries are not immune. Brazil generates more than 70% of its energy from hydropower (source-http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=br) – water shortages threaten electricity blackouts, affecting industrial drivers of the economy. Imposed energy quotas due to a drought in 2000 and 2001 are estimated to have cost the country roughly $20 billion, reducing GDP by 2% (source – http://growingblue.com/case-studies/brazils-reliance-on-hydropower/). Even in India, huge portion of electricity needs are fulfilled through electricity produced from hydropower projects, and any water shortage will take country to electricity blackouts.
  5. Urbanization: Sao Paolo, Brazil’s most populous city and economic heart, is experiencing its worst drought in over 80 years.  With record low rainfall combined with the impact of deforestation and pollution, the city’s key reservoirs are near depletion and the city’s 20 million inhabitants are faced with water cut-offs and restrictions for days at a time.  In China, owing to rising urbanization and increasing affluence wastewater has increased by 65% from 41.5 billion tons in 2000 to 68.5 billion tons in 2012, and is projected to grow further (Source- ttp://chinawaterrisk.org/resources/analysis-reviews/8-facts-on-china-wastewater/). In India, we have transported water through train in Latur just 2 years ago, there is a great conflict between state governments for the distribution of water in the rivers, and demand of water is increasing every day.
  6. Agriculture and food security: Approximately half of global grain production will be at riskdue to water stress by 2050 (Source – http://growingblue.com/water-in-2050/).  This is not only a problem in developing or emerging economies  –  the state of California is in the midst of its worst drought in over 100 years, forcing cutbacks on water allocation.  Direct costs of the 2014 drought to California agriculture are estimated at $1.5 billion, and at $2.2 billion state-wide. A similar context occurred in Australia just over 5 years ago, where prolonged drought forced government to reduce water allocation to farmers, affecting the world’s largest rice industry in the southern hemisphere. In India too, agriculture is always heard to be affected because of draught and low availability of water. Enough statistics are available to prove it.
  7. Peace, security and climate change: If greenhouse gas emissions around the globe continue to rise at current rates, some project an 80% likelihood that a “mega drought” – lasting longer than 35 years – will hit the US by 2100 (http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/1/e1400082). Such extreme weather conditions have been linked to instability and conflict;  extreme drought in Syria between 2007 and 2010 was most likely due to climate change, and considered to be a contributing factor to the current Syrian conflict.

These examples from around the world, by no means exhaustive, illustrate water’s footprint across key development issues and underscore the importance of placing water and sanitation at the heart of sustainable development.  What needs to be done now?

Solution-building across sectors and stakeholders is a critical starting point. Public private civil society should come forward to use water sustainable plumbing products and instruments which may reduce wastage of water, encourage the usages of recycle waters for sanitation and gardening and use low-water consumption plumbing fixtures and water closets. Education to public at large is equally important, which may be achieved by coordinated efforts of civil society and governments. The idea is to help mobilize a leading network of private sector and other actors to partner with government and support the implementation of a water and sanitation sustainable development goals through coordinated efforts, trust building and new effective partnerships.

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