World Water Day: a look at the natural resource
By: Yajaira Castillo y Sergio Zulueta.
Water, as an important element in the development of life, is becoming increasingly vulnerable in terms of quantity and quality due to demographic development, economic growth, and climate change (Gao et al., 2021). This has led us to witness a difficult reality in many regions of the world: water scarcity. It is here that the meaning of sustainable development takes on greater relevance as it seeks to reconcile human development with the environment in favor of improving the quality of human life and other expressions of life. It was so that the United Nations in 2015 specified the action-related objective of achieving water security as a key to sustainable development.
Thus, the question arises as to what the UN means by encompassing water security. The answer corresponds to its objective of ensuring that this resource is accessible for human use as well as respecting its participation in ecosystems (Müller et al., 2020). Therefore, water resources require active and committed management, so that we can be on track to meet the targets set out in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: clean water and sanitation by 2030.
In the same vein, water management is not only a task for our authorities, but a joint effort with citizens. Achieving this requires major awareness campaigns to expand the importance of water in our lives and for our home - the planet. Ergo, the United Nations decided to commemorate World Water Day every 22 March.
History of the commemoration
The proposal for the celebration was born during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Consequently, under a resolution, it was established that 22 March of each year should be remembered as World Water Day, 1993 being the first year of celebration.
In this document, the United Nations invites States to dedicate specific activities to raise awareness among their inhabitants on the use of water resources. It also asks the Secretary-General to make recommendations to help countries organize these activities, to ensure the success of the celebration, and to propose a particular water-related theme each year (United Nations, 1993). Hence, consolidating the theme for 2022 on the importance of water with a focus on the groundwater sector.
Water as a fundamental right for life
In Resolution 64/292 of 28 July 2010, water and sanitation were recognized as human rights by the United Nations General Assembly. Together, they add up to a series of binding obligations including access to enough to meet needs - input for production, food, socio-economic activity, agriculture, energy, industry, among others - and to provide adequate sanitation.
As well as international humanitarian law and environmental law along expressly protect access to safe drinking water and sanitation (United Nations, 2018). In conjunction with to the various conventions that conjointly guarantee it. These include the Geneva Conventions (1949) and their Additional Protocols (1977). They express the fundamental purpose of achieving access to safe drinking water and sanitation for health and survival in armed conflicts that may arise in the international and non-international arena.
Finally, water right is fundamental for the development of other related rights, such as the right to life, health, food, among others. The lack of access to drinking water is one of the causes of the contraction of diseases in vulnerable populations. Among the most common are diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, and polio. In addition, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 502 000 people die from diarrhea each year. In short, access to safe drinking water is an imminent priority for nations to consider for the dignified development of their people.
The celebration of International Water Day gives greater visibility to multiple aspects related to this natural resource. From the arduous road ahead to consolidate dignified and sufficient access to the community to the fact of guaranteeing the necessary quantity for human needs. Added with an integrated campaign that aims to encourage a public debate on its value and proposals for its preservation. The above can be summarized by prioritizing the construction of hydraulic structures for their storage, treatment, and supply.
In short, events such as the one mentioned above allow nations to rethink certain parameters set out in international conventions in which they consolidated pending commitments in favor of their populations. In this way, a perspective is offered that is subject to the reality of how much remains to be done. And by prioritizing sanitation that promotes water responsibility with the support of projects for the recovery of natural water sources, awareness campaigns in learning centers and the construction of sustainable mechanisms.
Gao, T., Wang, X., Wei, D., Wang, T., Liu, S., & Zhang, Y. (2021). Transboundary water scarcity under climate change. Journal of Hydrology, 598, 126453. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2021.126453
Müller, A. B., Avellán, T., & Schanze, J. (2020). Risk and sustainability assessment framework for decision support in "water scarcity - water reuse" situations.
Journal of United Nations, UN Habitat & World Health Organization (2018). The Right to Water. Fact Sheet No. 35.
United Nations. (1993). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the basis of the report of the Second Committee A/47/719. https://undocs.org/es/A/RES/47/193
World Health Organization (2005). Celebrating the international decade for action: water for life. Advocacy guide.
United Nations (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. New York: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
WWAP (UNESCO World Water Assessment Programmed). 2019. United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: Leaving no one behind. Paris, UNESCO.