The water deficit would reach 40 percent by 2030

The water deficit would reach 40 percent by 2030

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By Thalif Deen

Despite progress, at least 663 million people still do not have access to safe water. The UN predicts that in the future approximately 1.8 billion people, out of a world population of more than 7 billion, will live in countries or regions with water shortages.

"If the water service rate exceeds the ability to pay of a household then it is a violation of human rights": Darcey O'Callaghan.

Several factors exacerbate the current crisis, such as climate change - which triggers droughts - and military conflicts, in which water is used as a weapon of war in several areas, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The High Level Group on Water, announced jointly by the UN and the World Bank in late April, will mobilize financial resources and reinforce investments to increase water supplies. The body will be co-chaired by Presidents Ameenah Gurib, from Mauricio, and Enrique Peña Nieto, from Mexico.

The list of leaders in the body is completed by Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull, from Australia, Sheikh Hasina, from Bangladesh, Mark Rutte, from the Netherlands, and Abdullah Ensour, from Jordan, along with Presidents János Áder, from Hungary, Macky Sall from Senegal, Jacob Zuma from South Africa, and Emomali Rahmon from Tajikistan.

UN Under-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson of Sweden told a panel discussion at the world forum that water is at the nexus between sustainable development and climate action.

"Too much water and not a drop to drink," commented one of Eliasson's colleagues who visited Pakistan after a major flood, referring to the two extremes of weather patterns, droughts on one side and floods on the other.

When world leaders held a summit meeting in September to adopt the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda, they approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include eliminating extreme poverty and hunger and providing clean water to every inhabitant. of the planet by 2030.

Will the target be met within the stipulated time frame of 15 years?

“As we enter the era of the SDGs, there is no question that the goal of achieving 'safely managed' water for every person on the planet in the next 15 years is going to be challenging. What we have learned from the Millennium Development Goals is that water cannot be successfully tackled in isolation, ”said Sanjay Wijesekera, Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The potability of water is at risk every day due to the lack of sanitation, which is widespread in many countries, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

It is currently estimated that nearly 2 billion people drink water that may be contaminated with fecal matter.

UNICEF and other organizations will need to redouble their efforts to improve people's access to toilets, and especially to end open defecation.

Regarding “water, sanitation and hygiene, we must also take into account climate change. Droughts, floods and extreme weather conditions affect the availability and safety of water, ”said Wijesekera.

He also noted that some 160 million children under the age of five live in areas at high risk of drought, while around 500 million live in flood zones.

To solve the water crisis, Darcey O'Callaghan of Food and Water Watch observed that “we must first provide enough clean and safe water for all people, because water is a human right. Financial viability is a key element to satisfy this need ”.

“Second, we must protect the sustainability of the water and not extract too much from the basins beyond its natural recharge. If we allow water sources to dry up, then we lose the ability to protect people's human rights. So clearly we have to deal with these two elements in tandem, ”he opined.

For water to have an accessible rate, it must be managed by a public entity and not a private one and for profit, the expert recommended. Poor service, high tariffs, and degraded water quality were some of the consequences when companies were allowed to control access to water, something known as "water privatization."

Companies like Veolia and Suez, and their subsidiaries around the world, seek to profit from managing local water systems, he explained, and financial institutions such as the World Bank and regional development banks often impose conditions on the loans they make to developing countries demanding privatization of these systems.

But this is a recipe for disaster. Profit should not be the priority when it comes to providing water and sanitation services to people, "said O'Callaghan.

There is no longer any doubt that water and sanitation are human rights, he stressed when asked whether people should pay for these services. What the public pays for is the maintenance of water infrastructure and running water through the networks that distribute the resource to houses, schools, businesses and government institutions, he explained.

“The UN set guidelines for the affordability of water - at three percent of family income - and these… protect the human right to water. If the water service rate exceeds the ability to pay for a household, then it is a violation of human rights ”, he denounced.

One strategy that has shown promise is Public Agency Partnerships (PPPs). In contrast to privatization, which places public needs in the hands of for-profit corporations, PPPs bring together public officials, workers, and communities to provide a better and more efficient service.

PPPs allow two or more public water companies or nongovernmental organizations to join forces and take advantage of their shared capabilities, allowing them to pool their resources, purchasing power and technical know-how, O'Callaghan said.

Translated by Álvaro Queiruga
Photo: Ethiopian shepherds must constantly move in search of pastures and water wells for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George / IPS

Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela

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