“To think that some people don’t have clean water was mind-boggling to me.”
– Ashlan Gorse Cousteau
Editor’s Note, April 2020
The prolonged situation of COVID-19 pandemic has not only shaken the world to its core, but it has also brought back in focus the need and significance of “safe, clean, and affordable water for all.”
While the health-experts have been telling us to keep washing our hands, there have been concerns about the wastage of water and some more pertinent questions like do we even have enough water? How much of our population has access to clean water or just access to any water? Is it alright for us to preach now about handwashing and not do enough rest of the year to ensure that water is indeed available for all?
According to WHO, 785 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service, including 144 million people who are dependent on surface water. In least-developed countries, 22% of healthcare facilities have no water service, 21% no sanitation service and 22% no waste management service. Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
We are seeing amazing pictures of wildlife animals coming out from forests and roaming around in the outer and border areas of cities earlier occupied only by the humans. There have been reports of our rivers, water bodies, and canals looking cleaner at the very least if not completely pure and pristine. Nature is reclaiming its space while it can though it won’t last on its own. It is our duty not to fail the nature again.
It is indeed important for all the nations to unite and fight against a new disease like Corona. We must remember that some of our old battles are still going on and somehow they are not part of our daily news bulletins or the panel discussions of thousands of big flashy international water conferences, summits, and conclaves.
Somehow a fact like this skips our attention that an estimated 8,29,000 people die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene. In 2017, over 220 million people required preventive treatment for schistosomiasis – an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms contracted through exposure to infested water. The World Bank estimates that 21% of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and lack of hygiene practices. Every 2 minutes, a child dies from a water-related disease in the world. The leading cause of child death is diarrhea. More than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhea in India alone!
It is not only the threats and so-called negative-facts which we must highlight when we talk about the need for safe and clean water but also the opportunities and inherent benefits. As per Water.org, the universal access to basic water and sanitation would result in USD 18.5 billion in economic benefits each year from avoided deaths alone! Hence, a concentrated effort by world leaders, governments and the public in general to ensure the availability of clean water and sanitation would solve other problems as well. It would go a long way in giving much-needed relief to our economy as it gears up to fight against the crashing trade markets, increasing unemployment, and inflation.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone (including nature) if you ask me now, and even in the future! We need to be serious about it throughout the year.
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