World Water Day is annually celebrated on March 22 every year since its official declaration by United Nations in 1992. The day is not only to celebrate water but also to raise awareness of the global people who live without access to safe water. In other words, a key focus of World Water Day is global water crisis. Last year, it was celebrated worldwide based on the theme “Water and Climate Change” exploring how water and climate change entangled.
This year World Water Day celebrations extended its focus to include the environmental, social, and cultural value that people place on water. The United Nations has announced the theme “Valuing Water”. With the thematic focus this year World Water Day aims to create a forum of knowledge and advice by bringing together diverse personalities from the environment sector to raise awareness of careful water governance in relevant activities.
Water is one of the most important natural resources of the earth. There is no substitute for water. It is equally important for all living creatures as well as plants as it is in absolute need in everyone’s life. More than half of the human adult body is water. A man can survive without food for a considerable period, but only a short time without water. It is impossible for life to function without water. Our body needs water for almost every process - to regulate body temperature, to aid in digestion, to eliminate waste through the urine and so on. Similarly it is of importance to all other living things. Apart from it, water is the mostly source of societal and cultural development, traditions, rituals and religious beliefs signifying the humans’ day-to-day life-style. Can we imagine a world without water? It is so connected in humans, non-humans and plants as a prerequisite. As such, it needs no further explanation for the importance of water.
However, valuing water is not a novel concept. When the ancient societies adopted an agrarian way of life and created permanent settlements they largely depended on water in one way or other. Most of the ancient civilizations, for instance, the Indus Valley, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Chinese civilizations were evolved at places where water needed for agricultural and human requirements were readily available that is in the vicinity of lakes and rivers etc.: the Indus formed on the banks of the Indus River, the Egyptians formed on the banks of the River Nile, the Mesopotamian or the Babylon formed on the banks of Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Chinese formed on the banks of the Yellow River. The situation even gave rise to the term ‘Riverine Civilizations’. This means water was the basic mover of the civilizations in the ancient world.
A clear and precise knowledge of the humans who lived in these civilizations in hydrologic cycle guided these civilizations to well flourish for thousands of years. We who live in the third millennium of the Common Era can still learn from the Pre and Proto-historic societies regarding the traditional knowledge in water technology for proper water management. Parakramabahu, the Great (1153-1186) of the Polonnaruva Kingdom in medieval Sri Lanka intended not to release even a drop of rain water to the sea without making it to proper use. This intention is among one of the attempts for water management and utilization in bygone ages.
Water in modem perspective is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It is the SDG 6 which aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for everybody. From a modern perspective, water scarcity and water pollution including that of oceans is also a global issue. Further, global warming is a linked issue to the global water crisis. According to facts and figures of United Nations, over two billion people globally experience high water stress. A research article available in an electronic journal, Science Advances (2/2, February 2016), discloses the fact that about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year. The Global Water Institute has signaled that 700 million people around the world could be displaced by exhaustive water scarcity by 2030.
On the other hand water pollution is an increasing problem which needs immediate global concern. It is estimated that 80% of global wastewater goes untreated, containing everything from human waste to highly toxic industrial discharges directly into water bodies - rivers, reservoirs, lakes and oceans. The use of water from unimproved and unsafe sources or contaminated water will have a remarkable impact on basic sanitation and safe hygiene. It is said that over 50% of all diarrhoea infections worldwide are due to use of unsafe water. The water pollution subsequently contributes to global warming process as well which in return will have an impact on water. The global warming will bring weather-and-climate- related disasters which will harm the ecological balance including the water bodies.
Moreover, Covid-19 global pandemic has bestowed an innovative way of life through social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks emphasizing the means of clean water and sanitation which has never been before. This procedure will, undoubtedly, increase the global water consumption. Apart from it, due to Covid-19 lockdowns with more people staying their homes would probably gear the situation. A lot of data and in-depth analysis is necessary to draw precise conclusions on such changes related to the Covid-19 health measures and its lockdown situation. Accordingly, it has opened up a new direction for social science researchers.
We’ll be honest so let’s understand the truth. Different ways water benefits humans, non-humans and ecology so proper and careful management of this vital resource is the need of the hour. Increasing our ambition towards it will certainly ensure the sustainable and pure water in every sphere. There are things that we all can easily do but which immensely help to save water like fixing leaky plumbing, taking shorter showers, washing the linen in large amount’ at a time and proper disposal patterns. An updated knowledge with regard to the global water crisis and its aftermath will also be guided to a proper water management. In this way, every individual will automatically contribute to availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation.
Once individual go through such a process, it will be a start of the change from bottom to the top: increasing water storage, making irrigation systems more efficient and stopping cutting down trees in the forests etc. Such measures can be allocated to prevent water shortages and to withstand future challenges.
With the thematic focus this year World Water Day aims to create a forum of knowledge and advice by bringing together diverse personalities from the environment sector to raise awareness of careful water governance in relevant activities.
Along the above lines, when water is properly and carefully managed, it will automatically become prosperous. If there is no water contamination and similar situations, we will have good environment, where we will also have a feeling of having good health. With good health, we will be well on our way to a long life rich in happiness. On this World Water Day 2021, let us commit to defeat global water crisis and valuing water for future.
The writer is an Archaeologist attached to the Central Cultural Fund
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