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Water: Summits good, but steps crawling!

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 Dec 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

Is it not a fact that time is running out,

water is also running out?

Following the success of the Budapest Water Summit 2013, Hungary hosted just another high-profile conference and expo, the Budapest Water Summit 2016. The aim of the summit was to promote the implementation of the Sustaible Development Goal, all related targets on water and sanitation, as well as to achieve progress on the implementation of the water-related aspects in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Just before: on March 22, 2016, in conjunction with the United tions World Water Day, the Administration hosted a White House Water Summit to raise awareness of water issues and potential solutions in the United States, and to catalyze ideas and actions to help build a sustaible and secure water future through innovative science and technology.

But are we very serious about the vital resource when all of us are inherently connected to water through the food we eat, the water we drink and use in our daily lives, the electricity that powers our homes and businesses, the products we buy, and the ecosystems and environments that sustain our lives and our communities?

The reality - decreasing per-capita availability, degrading water quality, increasing competition/conflict within sectors and within society- urban versus agriculture- haves versus have not’s, upstream versus downstream- tiol versus intertiol coupled with increasing competition/conflict with the environment

Water scarcity already poses a great threat before economic growth, human rights and tiol security. As per recent UN estimates around 1.2 billion people - around 20 percent of world population - were living in areas where the limits of sustaible water use had already been reached or breached. It is high time that the issue needs to be placed high on the global agenda. In fact the world is urgently required to adapt to the reality. There is still enough water for all of us if and only if we keep it clean and share the same. In fact we face the challenge that we must make safer stores of water available to all.

Even Beijing, proud of achieving the highest growing region in the world ( ? ), still remains drought prone and shortages are expected to persist for years to come. Mighty Colorado river, North America, seldom meets the sea. One third of the U S and one fifth of Spain still suffer from water stress. Central Africa’s Lake Chad, supporting the very life of 30 million plus people has already shrunk one-tenth of its former size, the negative contributory factors being climate change, drought, mismagement and over use, among others.

Then, what about the burgeoning cities – the major water user??The Table clearly shows the population pressure as we are shortly going to experience and the consequent pressure on this scarce resource- population growth would put further strain on per capita availability of water.

Not only in Chi, in India also, though accessibility to drinking water has increased considerably during the last decade in particular, yet around 10 percent of the rural and urban population still does not have access to regular safe drinking water and during critical summer especially the condition goes from bad to worse in many parts of the country still. Excessive extraction of ground water to meet agriculture, industrial and domestic demands is steadily harming the rural and urban settlements.

Water limits are close to being breached in several countries, while food output has to increase by up to 100 percent by 2050 to sustain a growing world population, according to the United tions. The World Bank rightly said that key problems in water sector include data secrecy, competition for resources, too much focus on increasing supply and not enough on magement.

Added to this, the very piping system into the home, unclean water tanks, improper draige and waste disposal systems, also contribute to impure or contamited water. Again, presence of excess inorganic matters [iron, lead salts, etc ] also nicely paves the way for various ailments and diseases to occur like : constipation, dyspepsia, colic, paralysis, kidney disease and sometimes even death.

This adequately shows that immediate actions are to be taken to protect the wealth – cutting down the number of people without safe access to water in a time bound manner. The Secretary-General of the United tions rightly observed: ‘we need to begin thinking about better strategies for maging water – for using it efficiently and sharing it fairly. This means partnerships involving not just governments but civil society groups, individuals and businesses’.

Undeniably we are still at very early stages of awakening. A realistic approach - obviously not by holding Semirs and observance of world water day only – can mitigate the incidence. The responsibility lies equally with the Government sector as well as private sector – checking the unrestricted exploitation of ground water, encouraging planned urbanization, optimisation of use [ read Israel ], restricting the flow of effluents from industrial units to the rivers and obvious enough stricter supervision and effectively discharging the duties and responsibilities related to corporate social responsibility.

As a whole the system should ultimately work as a part of the solution rather than a problem. The need is to move beyond mere use of water to stewardship – to protect what is steadily becoming an increasingly scarce resource - ultimately benefiting the settlements / communities. Efforts to enhance drinking water supply must move at a greater speed so as to cover all of the villages with adequate potable water connection / supply.

The ADB observations should not lose sight of: climate change may bring about a decrease in the quantity and quality of land for agricultural use, scarcity in surface water for irrigation, and a boom in pest population, the bank said. Other food production sectors such as fisheries may also suffer from an increase in water salinity, affecting fish populations; while heat stress and limited water intake due to a decrease in rainfall may adversely affect livestock yield. The bank said that to address these issues, governments must improve water and farm magement practices, adopt new technology and invest in more agricultural infrastructure.

To mitigate the impact of climate change on food production, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) urged governments in developing Asia to push for improvements in water and farm magement practices while increasing investments in agricultural infrastructure. In particular, the ADB observed that “sound water sound water magement practices, such as promoting the adoption of water conservation techniques, water recycling, or integrated river basin planning, [may be adopted] to improve resilience to changes in the hydrologic cycle and to provide co-benefits to other sectors, such as health.”

Obvious enough – technology would play the bigger role in such a context to meet people’s basic needs in a sustained manner. turally, protecting fresh water reserves, watershed development, chemical treatments following the safety norms, tackling the arsenic and fluoride contamition, among others, could give rich dividends. It is high time that the gross disparity prevailing on this score requires immediate attention so as to mitigate the incidence. Investment / raising fund allocations on this infrastructure development will benefit all in the long run in as much as it will ensure coverage of all rural habitations to reach the unreached with access to safe drinking water; sustaibility of the systems and sources and tackling the water quality problems in affected habitations.

It is crystal clear that for a 21st century company it has been all about the triangle – water, food and climate change. The challenge could only be mitigated if collaborative approaches are taken up backed by political will, market mechanisms and innovative technology. Market forces could work well under a cap-and-trade approach similar to those applied to carbon dioxide. Favouring market forces to play a role in the magement of scarce water - defining the value of water – positively aids to take a big leap forward.

The immediate need is thus there to invest in reliable, proven and advanced water purification system that guarantees the public – in rural and urban areas – safe and pure drinking water at all times. Latest technology available on this score must be extensively made use of in a time bound manner to protect the human beings from getting crushed via pollution routes.

The urgent necessity - a forward looking realistic plan has to focus: improving data collection on the location and types of water resources, promoting water-saving farming technologies, developing sewage treatment facilities alongside water projects, and establishing a tiol monitoring body and a new legal framework for the sector. As we can’t expand in a quantitative sense, we have to expand by using our water more carefully.

The process is to be driven by: water-related health impacts, planned industrialization, water security, and awakening environmental consciousness

It has been rightly observed that as climate change affects our water supplies, and population continues to grow and shift, it will become increasingly important to develop and implement innovative, long-term strategies for making sure we have enough water when and where we need it. To succeed, these strategies must rely on expertise and perspectives from the Federal, state, regiol, local, tribal levels, as well as from other stakeholder groups.

Clearly, it is a global phenomenon – an area where immediate adequate attention is to be paid so that the things do not go from bad to worse. It is essential for survival – more important than anything else – the most crucial factor considered from the point of view of environment protection, poverty alleviation and promote development in as much as now globally more than two and half billion people live in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation. Wastage of water and absence of regular clean water supply not only to the burgeoning metropolis but to huge rural regions also simultaneously coexists.

Are we really serious on this score?

(The Writer, a noted Magement Economist, an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Affairs and Principal, Eminent College of Magement and Technology, Kolkata, can be reached at m.bibhas@gmail.com)

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