Water – why is it so important to talk about related issues right now?
Why should we care about water? Well, to put it quite simply, water is life. Vital to Human development, water affects all of us, no matter whether we live in Ireland, Honduras, Yemen or elsewhere. Water is not just a basic need but has an immense impact on the livelihoods and social and economic development of billions of people across the globe, and it is also linked to human rights, gender roles, education and violence. Never mind climate change, businesses and governance. Water is going to be the most precious resource on the planet and future wars will be fought over it.
Even though water and related issues play a central part for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), unfortunately the topic is still not given the attention it deserves on the global agenda. That means that even after half a century of state-supported “development aid” and dedicated efforts of numerous Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and individuals, the global statistics look rather grim:
1 in 8 persons is without water; 1 in 4 goes without access to basic sanitation – in fact, today more people have a cell phone than access to a toilet; and up to 4000 people die every day from water related diarrheal diseases. In comparison a person in Ireland uses an average of a bathtub full of water – every day.
On top of that, the lack of access to water hits the poorest people the hardest. These people who are already vulnerable to economic, political and ecological instabilities are least able to cope with the impact of climate change such as droughts and floods, dried out water holes, deforestation etc. (Have a look at this video on the effects of climate change in Peru.)
The main reason for this is the strong relationship between income and access to water. Imagine you live in a poor neighbourhood of a city like Tegucigalpa in Honduras, where water is not a public commodity but can only be bought from vendors for astronomical prices that can be anything up to half of your daily income. If you have money, you have water, if you don’t, you and your family will go thirsty or be forced to drink unclean water, won’t be able to water your crops or animals or go without basic sanitation.
Access to water is an issue of equity and justice and often also incorporates economic scarcity, not only a physical shortage. Mismanagement of resources, missing regulations and competitive industries muscling out small scale users often add to the problem. Read Progressio’s Drop by Drop Report that talks about water mismanagement in Peru, where the asparagus production for Ireland and the UK puts ground water and small scale farmers under immense pressure.
Progressio and its partner organisations are trying to tackle these various issues on a number of levels – from local farming schools and food security projects, introduction of policies and water laws to lobbying politicians and influencing global regulations.