“The fact is that water is work.”
– Guy Ryder, ILO Director General and Chair of UN-Water
22nd March is observed as World Water Day and this week also happens to be the India Water Week. This World Water Day, let’s take out a few minutes to educate ourselves about the importance of water in our lives.
Water is an essential life-giving element – its availability and quality has a direct impact on the lives of many. Many rivers run in India and yet, the masses do not have enough to drink. Yes, what we have as testimonies are dirty polluted rivers and stifled lakes full of industrial wastes. Add to that, a harsh Indian summer and an equally ravaging annual monsoon and drought cycles that bring their share of water-borne diseases and water woes, if you may.
Many die because they didn’t have access to potable water. Precious lives lost to water-related diseases could have been prevented had there been safe water and sanitation. Farmers lost their crop due to unpredictable monsoon cycles and inability to harvest and manage rain and available fresh water; many resort to suicides to avoid the vicious cycle of poverty, shame and debts. The fate of fishermen depended on good sources of freshwater. In India, women and children walk for hours to bring home enough water to cook, clean and wash – this invisible labour in many households is not even accounted for, let alone acknowledged.
The tragic truth is, despite the emphasis and importance of water as a valuable asset in our lives, not much has been done to access safe water efficiently. Almost 1.5 billion people work in water-related sectors and almost all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safety. Yet, they are not acknowledged or recognised or even protected by basic labour rights. This year’s theme is to ensure we focus on how sufficient quantity and quality of water can change the lives and livelihoods of workers and go on to transform societies into greener economies and sustainable development. If safe water was made available, imagine how that time spent in fetching water could have been spent in learning new skills to find better means of employment.
In solidarity with this year’s UN World Water Day theme – Better Water, better jobs – India is also focussing on the impact of water in our daily lives in the following –
- Irrigation and agriculture
- Hydro and thermal energy – production and management of demand and supply
- Safe and quality water supply in rural and urban zones
- Strategies for recycling and re-use/regeneration issues
- Water-quality management
The emphasis of Water Day looks at improvements in access to WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene – facilities in developing countries. The significance of this day is to be aware of the importance of water (again!), learn about water issues, take responsibility, be inspired to spread the initiative and make a difference with innovative solutions, contribute to better environmental health by wasting less water, think of water harvesting methods and plant more trees which can help recharge groundwater and foster rainfall.
Nearly all of us take water for granted. We almost assume that when we turn on our taps and faucets, safe water will always be there. It is time we paused and considered how much water to use on a daily basis and ponder how much water is enough. Every drop counts.