World Water Day: the answer is in nature

This year, as we celebrate World Water Day, we focus our attention on the nature-based solutions available to us as we work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation by 2030.

When we neglect our ecosystems, we make it harder to provide everyone with the water they need to survive and thrive [1]. Through the Australian Aid funded Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CS WASH) Fund, many partner civil society organisations (CSOs) are looking beyond achieving basic universal access to tackling the management of waste to protect the environment and secure safe drinking water supplies.

Plan International Pakistan, in collaboration with the Punjab Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Department has made significant improvements to the WASH services in Punjab Province. Improvements include the successful completion of a drinking water supply, wastewater treatment plant and the construction and repair of surface drains in the community of Bullay Bala.

An estimated 1.8 billion people use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from human faeces; while globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the environment without being treated or reused [2]. Recent Fund stories show how ensuring access to safe water supply to address these issues.

In Malawi, Mwakhiwa Village in Phalombe District has experienced the multiple, positive impacts of having access to a safe water source, including improved health, increased school attendance and the reduced burden on women to collect water. With support from United Purpose’s Fund project the community no longer relies on unprotected water sources that resulted in regular cases of cholera, or boreholes located in neighbouring villages requiring women and children to spend 4-5 hours a day collecting water.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Fund project is promoting local technology, the ‘SONO filter’ in Tebaria village to reduce the rate of arsenic and excessive iron present in groundwater and tube-wells. Long-term consumption of arsenic can lead to skin and liver diseases, nervous system complications and digestive difficulties.

Environmental damage, together with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we see around the world. Floods, droughts and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes [3].

In Vietnam’s Tra Vinh Province ecosystem degradation caused by the breakdown of natural barriers to seawater and the construction of dams further upstream on the Mekong River has led to salinity intrusion. Made worse by climate change, salinity intrusion has caused extensive damage to water supplies, agriculture and the livelihoods of people in the region. In response to the immediate threat to drinking water supplies, Thrive East Meets West’s CS WASH Fund project is helping the government to extend water supply networks to households in areas affected by the salinity intrusion.   

This year, on World Water Day the World Water Development Report 2018 has been released and outlines nature-based solutions for water. The report demonstrates how nature-based solutions offer a vital means of moving beyond business-as-usual to address many of the world’s water challenges.

World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the water challenges we face. Wherever you are and whatever you do on the 22 March, share your #WorldWaterDay stories with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Plan Vietnam

[1] UN Water (2018) Theme: Nature for Water, http://worldwaterday.org/theme/
[2] UNESCO (2018) World Water Development Report 2018: Nature-based solutions for water
[3] UN Water (2018) Theme: Nature for Water, http://worldwaterday.org/theme/

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