Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Water, Jobs and Human Rights

“Providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources is one of the most important things we can do to reduce disease”- World Health Organization Director General-Dr. Margaret Chan.
Water is life and forms the core of sustainable development.  World Water Day is commemorated each year on March 22. The day is set aside to raise global awareness of the various issues associated with having clean water for human consumption and other related functions. The significance of World Water Day which is a United Nations initiative aims to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues such as diseases.  It’s a day for reflection regarding how best to prepare for how we manage water in the future.  
The theme this year is “Better Water, Better Jobs”. Interestingly, half of all workers around the globe (1.5 billion) work in water related industries.  Disturbingly, despite the correlations between jobs and water, a significant number of these workers are not protected by basic labour rights according to the United Nations and this wrong must be corrected.  
According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) women and children carry more than 70 per cent of the burden in drinking water collection. This is especially troubling for girls who are denied their right to an education since they spend a significant portion of the day searching for and collecting water.
Having a reliable, sufficient and clean supply of water is the engine for economic growth and national security in any society. The issue of sanitation is closely associated with having a consistent source of water.  Alarmingly, despite all the advances in technology approximately, seven hundred and forty eight million people (748) worldwide do not have access to an improved source of drinking water. Shockingly, 2.5 billion people do not use an improved sanitation facility. The practice of open defecation is still widespread in some parts of Africa due to poor sanitation and lack of access to water and urgently needs to address.
In recent times it has become quite fashionable for most of us in the society to purchase bottled water. The source and content of some of these bottled water products have been brought under scrutiny by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica and it is quite clear that not only bottle water meet the same standards. We need to develop a standardized method to ensure that all bottled water companies meet the same hygienic and safety standards. Having portable water is more than just a thirst quencher. Having water is critical for providing jobs as well for scaffolding human development in any society. Water resources, and the range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. Climate change is real and poses a present danger to all of Earth’s inhabitants. Climate change related droughts put millions of children at risk of death and disease. The current situation is a recipe for poverty and diminished opportunities for many people and urgently requires the collaborative effort of governments, NGO’s and the private sector to change this narrative.
We need to pay more attention to the issue of water in Jamaica especially in light of the recent water restrictions that continue to plague and inconvenience the population. Too often the operations of our educational and health institutions are disrupted due to a lack of water. In many instances productivity levels fall in many areas of industries due to a lack of sufficient and consistent water supply. The issue of a reliable water supply should be clearly on the agenda of the Ministry of Water and the Environment, which now fall under the Office of the Prime Minister.
We cannot continue to give lip service to the environment. We require a bold and innovative approach to ensure that all communities in Jamaica have access to water. Human settlements develop in harmony with the natural water cycle and the ecosystems that support it. We need to implement measures that will reduce our vulnerability and improve resilience to water-related disasters. We need to integrated new approaches to water resources development and management. As a society we need to explore recycling water more, as well as rainwater harvesting. Rainwater can be collected from various hard surfaces such as rooftops and/or other manmade aboveground hard surfaces.  This would be especially useful for our farmers as well as rural areas which are more affected due to the elevated terrain.  
Rain harvesting and water recycling are two areas which have the potential not only as a means of job creation, but also to build stronger and healthier families and communities. Having access to a sufficient, clean and reliable water supply is human rights and ought to be given the necessary attention. In fact on July 28, 2010 the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.
In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki -moon: Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women's empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.
#water #humanrights #empowerment #disease #climatechange #energy

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.