Water. If someone Googles the word ‘water’ he or she will come across the following definition: “a colourless, transparent, odourless, liquid which forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms”. In Chemistry class, we learnt that water is also known as H2O, i.e. it consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. However, besides the science behind water, the other way that I would define it is ‘life’. Yes, water is life. It is only because of the presence of water on Earth that life came into being and it can be proclaimed with utmost certainty that without water all lives on Earth would cease to exist. Water is essential for our existence and there is no way that we could deny it.
Since time immemorial, water has been a free resource to all creatures on earth, just like air, fire and soil. Homo sapiens, being the most intelligent on earth, learnt to tame all other creatures (from the mighty elephants to the tiniest of micro-organisms) and as a result of being the mightiest of all on the planet, human beings have also assumed power over the free resources offered to us by nature. Initially, the human race started using these resources for their use but with time, greed has overpowered our senses resulting in rampant misuse of our precious resources, including water, one of the most vital resources of all.
So, why am I harping on water all of a sudden? Well, like every year, the International World Water Day is being celebrated on 22nd March. Now, are we aware of the International World Water Day and its significance? I can wistfully say that only a handful of us would be answering in the affirmative. Hence, let me briefly tell you about the history of the International World Water Day.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) also known as the Earth Summit was held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. One of the most important messages that emerged out of the Summit was, “There is much greater awareness of and concern over the growing scarcity of water.” It was recommended that there was a need to have an international day to celebrate freshwater and the United Nations General Assembly designated 22nd March, 1993 as the first World Water Day. UN-Water, the agency that coordinates the United Nations (UN) work on all freshwater related issues and sanitation, sets a theme on World Water Day each year. These themes correspond to a current or future challenge related with water.
This year we are celebrating the 24th World Water Day and the theme is “Wastewater”. At the global level, all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture are hardly treated or reused. They flow back to the nature and ends up polluting the environment, losing precious nutrients in the process. There is an urgent need to reduce and reuse wastewater. Proper treatment of wastewater along with recycling is the way to go. This will also aid in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6’s target of halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing water recycling and safe reuse.
We need to remember that water is essential for us. It is not only required to quench our thirst or preserve our health, but it is “vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.” The UN website reveals alarming news that over 663 million people live “without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.” The International World Water Day is celebrated globally and provides an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, become inspired to inform others and take action to make a difference.
I would like to conclude with this meaningful quote of Guy Rider, Chair of UN-Water on his opinion about the power of individuals to change the world.
“Do what you can, do it with others, and do it with passion.”
*Note: The author is a Junior Research Fellow at Centre for Environment and Development, Kolkata under DECCMA – India Project.
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