Tomorrow March 22 is World Water Day and the main aim is to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This day is important and significant for Sri Lanka because we have been blessed with many major rivers, canals and streams and we need to ensure that no one is allowed to pollute these vast resources or to plunder them through subtle means.
The theme this year is, Why Waste Water and we call upon responsible and duty conscious Sri Lankans to make a sincere resolution that they will not waste fresh water and will also tell others in an undiluted way that they should not waste water.
The United Nations in a statement to mark the event calls upon all countries to take action to tackle the water crisis.
We will not waste water if we are made aware that today there are more than 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water. More shocking is the revelation that globally as many as two billion people are using a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated. Reports indicate there are many such people in Sri Lanka. More than half a million diarrhoeal deaths in low and middle-income countries are attributed to inadequate drinking-water, and the vast majority of these deaths occur among children under five. The UN has also underlined, through its sustainable development goals, the importance of improving water quality and reducing, treating and reusing wastewater.
Globally, the wastewater from our homes, cities, industries and agriculture flow back to nature without being treated or reused – polluting drinking, bathing and irrigation water, losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.
Reducing and safely treating and reusing wastewater, for example in agriculture and aquaculture, protects workers, farmers and consumers, promotes food security, health and well-being, the UN says.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are also regular emergency situations relating to fresh water. These include earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, landslides, wildfires and droughts such as the one Sri Lanka is facing now. The technological hazards include chemical spills and disruption to infrastructure. Complex situations, produced by conflict and outbreaks, lead to health-related diseases and affect populations in all contexts. Depending upon the nature of the event, vulnerability of the people affected and the capacity of local and national systems, deterioration in environmental conditions often results in a steep increase in water, sanitation and hygiene -related diarrhoeal disease.
A significant amount of disease could be prevented through access to safe water, adequate sanitation services and better hygiene practices. Diarrhoeal disease alone amounts to an estimated 3.6 % of the total daily global burden of disease and is responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million people every year. It is estimated that 58% of that burden, or 842,000 deaths per year, is attributable to the supply of unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene and includes 361,000 deaths of children under age five, mostly in low-income countries.
In Sri Lanka, while the citizens cooperate by not wasting fresh water, the government also needs to take effective steps to stop the pollution of rivers. This needs to be made a criminal offence.
In Parliament last month a leading MP warned that a transnational soft drink giant -- facing protests and restriction on its 57 plants in India -- was planning to move to Sri Lanka and plunder our fresh water resources. He warned this would create a fresh water catastrophe in Sri Lanka.
We urge the government to protect our freshwater resources not only from transnational corporations but also from powerful countries which have gone to war to gain control of oil resources and may later go to war to gain control of fresh water resources. So let us come together to conserve and save our fresh water resources while also bringing about a more equitable distribution among our people.
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