World Water Day: Conserving water for sustainable development

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The decision of the United Nations General Assembly to designate every March 22 as World Water Day underscores the importance of water to existence and development. Observers note it is in recognition of its importance that the theme of the 2017 Water day “Water and Wastewater’’ is targeted at reducing, treating and re-using wastewater for sustainable developments.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has earlier expressed concern that majority of all the wastewater from homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being treated or re-used.According to it, reducing and safely treating and re-using wastewater in agriculture and aquaculture promotes food security and wellbeing of workers, farmers and consumers. By observing the current edition of the day, therefore, commentators note that the public will be aware of the symbiosis between water and wastewater in the quest for such sustainable developments.

WHO further notes that there are more than 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources of even contaminated water. The connections between water, sustainable development and their impacts on the lives of people across the world have also drawn attention to the need to fund water resources and maintain such resources. In Nigeria for instance, stakeholders have, on many occasions, called for adequate funding of policies on water resources to achieve greater socio-economic developments. In his view, Hassan Bdliya, Chairman, Global Water Partnership in Nigeria, said apart from funding, Nigeria needed to understand that water was a resource that could finish if not properly used in line with the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). He said the IWRM emphasised the need to use water, putting in consideration sustainability, equity and reduce conflict that might come from poor use of water resources.

Bdliya said stakeholders were fond of developing water resources without following guidelines or principles and they somewhat ended up creating problems. “We have several dams and many people benefiting from the dams and many people likewise are also crying out that these dams have created more problems than solutions for them.

“What the IWRM tries to do is to bring together all the concerned parties so that there would be a participatory approach in handling water resources management issues.

“The concept was arrived through interactions at the global level and it is now based on a set of principles which each country that embraces IWRM is supposed to employ in managing water resources.

“These principles include the need to recognise that water is finite and it has to be managed in a manner that you recognise that it can finish.

“It also recognises that it has a commercial and social value and it has to be managed in a way that reflects those values,’’ he said.

He said the Global Water Partnership in Nigeria had been partnering with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources towards implementing IWRM guidelines.

Similarly, Benson Attah, National Coordinator, Society for Water and Sanitation, expressed concern about poor finance and uncoordinated programmes on water projects.

He called on all tiers of government to strengthen activities on increasing access to safe water and sanitation in the country by 2030.

“Water is critical to the attainment of the economic and social prosperity, water is very essential to survival while sustainable developments is impossible without water,’’ he said.

Explaining the importance of water and its conservation, Bai-Mass Taal, former Executive Secretary, African Ministers Council on Water, urged member countries to increase their budget for water to enable them meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on water and sanitation.

According to him, there is no doubt that achieving the SDGs for Water Security and Sanitation will require a different approach from that of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“When you look at budgets for water in most African countries, it can never be in the top five, this is not good.

“Most leaders forget that water is a multi sectoral issue, it cuts across agriculture, health, education and socio-economic issues, so we must stop this trend if we want to achieve the SDGs,’’ he said.

He added that ensuring secure, productive and sustainable water for all purposes, as well as sanitation and hygiene interventions, were prerequisites for sustainable economic developments.

In the light of the aim of observance of the day, the Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to increase access to potable water for all Nigerians before 2030.

He said the present administration had increased momentum for meeting this goal through the inauguration of the Partnership for Extended Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme.

He said the ministry was working to scale up access to water and sanitation by repositioning the relevant departments for efficient service delivery.

He blamed Nigeria’s inability to meet water and sanitation targets of the MDGs on failures of past governments, saying efforts were already in place to reverse the trend.

“It is also a well known fact that Nigeria did not achieved the targets of the MDGs target for water and sanitation, some of the reasons adduced to these are primarily the lack of effective coordination among the stakeholders and the inability to harness the required funds,’’ he said.

He said the Federal Executive Council had also approved the roadmap for improving the water sector.

Adamu, nonetheless, observed that with the implementation of the Partnership for Extended Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme, the efforts of the stakeholders would be relevant and water would be conserved for sustainable developments.

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