India has underlined the need to build resilient systems that provide long term solutions for the sustainable use of water, amidst increased global pressure on dwindling water resources.
Addressing the high-level meeting on the “Implementation of the Water-Related Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda” convened by President of the General Assembly Volkan Bozkir, Minister of Jal Shakti (Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation) Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said that there is no doubt that in the journey to achieve the 2030 Agenda, water supply and sanitation have to be the center of the global efforts.
“Water being critical to life on earth, also plays a seminal role in the social, economic, and environmental evaluation of the world towards a sustainable future. Nearly 1.1 billion people lack access to water, with 2.7 billion people facing water scarcity for at least one month every year,” Shekhawat said on Thursday.
“We need to make water available to the most vulnerable. At the same time, we need to build resilient systems that provide long term solutions for sustainable use of water,” he said.
Noting that water systems are becoming stressed and more than half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared, Shekhawat said climate change is altering the pattern of weather, all around causing droughts in some areas and floods in others.
“Furthermore, water availability and distribution is changed by the limitation of geography, growing demand and pollution of water bodies. Water conservation, rain-water harvesting and water recycling have yielded synergistic results and we need to build on them,” he said, adding that there is a need to bridge the gap between accessibility and availability of water.
The high-level meeting centred around implementation of the water-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda, which is the blueprint for a better, more sustainable world.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 specifically addresses access to water and sanitation. The UN General Assembly has declared 2018 to 2028, the Water Action Decade, which also addresses the increased global pressure on water resources, and exacerbated risk of droughts and floods.
Bozkir told the high-level meeting that about 2.2 billion people – almost a third of the global population – continue to lack access to safely managed drinking water; 4.2 billion people – more than half of the planet’s population – live without safely managed sanitation and two billion people don’t have a decent toilet of their own.
“If I may be candid: it is a moral failure that we live in a world with such high levels of technical innovation and success, but we continue to allow billions of people to exist without clean drinking water or the basic tools to wash their hands. And make no mistake, this is a global failure that has far-reaching implications for all of us,” Bozkir said.
He called on the international community to provide greater financial and capacity-building support to water and sanitation related activities, particularly through their support to COVID-19 recovery.
Shekhawat added that with 17.7 per cent of the world’s population calling India as their home, water demand will outpace water availability by two times by 2030. He outlined efforts undertaken by India to achieve Sustainable Development Goal-6, particularly the establishment of the Ministry of Water Conservation and Management in 2019 to address all water-related issues.
‘The Clean India Mission’, launched in 2014 to achieve universal sanitation, became the world’s biggest sanitation campaign with the construction of 110 million toilets in only six years resulting in an open-defecation free India, he said.
The campaign successfully effected a positive behavioral transformation by urging people to adopt better sanitation and hygiene standards, he said adding that experience showed that women’s role in management of water and sanitation facilities is crucial in ensuring sustainability.
India has also launched the ‘Water is Life Mission’ (Jal Jeevan), a USD 50 billion project to provide safe and piped drinking water to all households by 2024. Under the National River Conservation Plan, river Ganga is being cleaned, a “feat being accomplished by abatement of pollution and conservation and rejuvenation of the river.” Shekhawat quoted Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's words, “Water being the wealth of the people and its distribution being uncertain, the correct approach is not to complain against nature but to conserve water.”