By Dr Than Lwin Tun
The 22nd March was declared World Water Day when the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/ RES/47/193 on 22 December 1992. In 1993, the First World Water Day was celebrated to observe the day as a world day of water every year to raise awareness about water resource conservation. After that, it was celebrated every year around the world to highlight the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of water resources. The theme for World Water Day of this year, 2023 is about Accelerating Change to solve the water and sanitation crisis.
Water is a precious resource that is essential for life. It sustains our ecosystems, supports agriculture and food production, and provides clean drinking water for human consumption. Despite its importance, many parts of the world still face significant water-related challenges, such as water scarcity, pollution, and inadequate sanitation. One of the key challenges facing us today is water scarcity. According to the United Nations, over two billion people lack access to safe drinking water.
Climate change, population growth, and unsustainable water use practices are some of the main factors contributing to water scarcity. Another significant challenge is water pollution. Industrial and agricultural activities, as well as urbanization, have led to the contamination of many water sources.
Polluted water can have devastating impacts on human health and the environment, leading to diseases, ecological damage, and economic losses. Dysfunction throughout the water cycle undermines progress on all major global issues, from health to hunger, gender equality to jobs, education to industry, and disasters to peace.
Water and climate are inextricably linked- from increasing floods, unpredictable rainfall, and droughts, the impacts of climate change on the water can be seen and felt at an accelerating rate.
These impacts threaten sustainable development, biodiversity, and people’s access to water and sanitation. According to the latest State of the Climate Services on Water report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), water-related hazards have increased at an alarming rate. Since 2000, floods have increased by 134 per cent with the duration of droughts increasing by 29 per cent.
But water can also be a key solution to climate change. Carbon storage can be improved by protecting environments like peatlands and wetlands, adopting sustainable agricultural practices can help reduce stress on freshwater supplies, and improving water supply and sanitation infrastructures can ensure that everyone has access to vital resources in the future.
Water must be at the centre of climate policies and action. Sustainable water management can help build resilience, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and protect societies and ecosystems.
Sustainable, affordable, and scalable water solutions must become a priority.
In 2015, the world committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 as part of the 2030 Agenda – “the promise that everyone would have safely managed water and sanitation by 2030”. Nowadays, we all are seriously off-track. There is an urgent need to accelerate change – to go beyond ‘business as usual.’ We are currently facing a global water crisis. Billions of people around the world still lack access to water. It is estimated that more than 800,000 people die each year from diseases directly attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices. With water being so crucial to many aspects of life, it is important to ensure its protection and proper management to ensure that everyone has equitable access to this essential resource by 2023.
The interactive dialogues also support the five principles of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, an initiative to deliver fast results towards ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. The five interactive dialogues are: (1) Water for Health: Access to safe drinking water, hygiene, and sanitation, (2) Water for Sustainable Development: Valuing Water, Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Sustainable Economic and Urban Development, (3) Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment: Source to Sea, Biodiversity, Climate, Resilience and Disaster Risk Reduction, (4) Water for Cooperation: Transboundary and International Water Cooperation, Cross-Sectoral Cooperation and Water across the 2030 Agenda, (5) Water Action Decade: Accelerating the implementation of the objectives of the Decade, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Action Plan.
Water is a critical issue that affects everyone. As UN Member States, governments and stakeholders prepare to make their own water commitments; the UN is calling on everyone to take their own action. Any action – whether small or big – can help accelerate change and action towards achieving the goals and targets of SDG 6. Some simple actions can be incorporated into daily routines, which are (1) Take shorter showers and reduce your water waste in your home. With 44 per cent of household wastewater not being safely treated, taking shorter showers is a terrific way to save this precious resource. (2) Participate in clean-ups of local rivers, lakes, or wetlands. Plant a tree or create your own water garden. These actions can help protect water ecosystems from pollution and reduce the risk of flooding and store water efficiently. (3) Raise awareness of the critical connection between toilets, sanitation, and menstruation. Break taboos by starting conversations in your local community, school, or workplace. Learn more about the goals and targets of SDG 6 and continue to advocate for solutions at the local and national levels. Support water-related campaigns and find out other ways you can incorporate simple actions that can help protect water resources.
In conclusion, celebrating World Water Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance of water and the challenges we face in managing this precious resource. By accelerating change, we can work towards a more sustainable future where water is managed in a way that supports human well-being and the health of our planet. Let us all join hands to protect and conserve this precious resource for future generations.
- World Water Day | United Nations
- UN 2023 Water Conference | UN News