A blog article on TOI talks of water atlast. Pick any paper today and carefully weed out the attention paid by the media, public on lack of water supply, basic sanitation facilities, basic electricity and many such services and you end up wasting very little time. Issues that matter most are paid the least attention these days.
In such a scenario indeed the following
http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/reclaiming-india/entry/humdrum-boring-and-so-very-unsexy does refer to a passing mention to 50,000 children deaths in Uttar Pradesh over the past 35 years, and the critical importance of water wars waged by damming of Brahmaputra by the Chinese leading to crises in economically poor nations India and Bangladesh. No mention is however made of water-related impacts on child health, education, nutrition for example. Water seems to be seen increasingly just another commodity in most analyses.
Where is the cutting edge analysis that was once a major backbone of media and publishing houses. Without delving into the roots of the problems and of course providing worthwhile solutions, do however fancy a read to acquaint yourself over some ‘incomplete’ facts and figures.
“WASH” in emergencies is not a new innovative word! It is a composite domain that looks at water systems, sanitation facilities and hygiene practices. Sphere Standards, internationally recognized guidelines for humanitarian aid workers to get things right on the ground during emergencies defines a framework for WASH.
Disasters provide a unique opportunity to rebuild new systems and strengthen communities, not just in terms of physical rebuilding but also improve on existing infrastructure and provision of services.
Most water-‐related diseases that spread rampantly after disasters like floods or cyclones can be attributed to inadequate water supply or lack of sanitation facilities and inadequate mechanisms or facilities for excreta disposal. For the purposes of this study, achieving recovery in the context of water, sanitation and hygiene can be understood to mean:
• Enhancing the resilience of water -‐ sanitation systems and hygiene practices to future/secondary water-‐related hazards.
• Creating an overall stronger infrastructure for water supply, storage, treatment facilities and sanitation systems.
• Strengthening institutions like local village level governing bodies, district level government agencies, non-‐governmental agencies and community groups which are engaged in WASH systems by adopting measures for sustainable recovery.
Prioritized activities and approaches to reducing risks in recovery should essentially expand the resilience of a community through both structural and non-‐structural measures. This could be made possible, when but only when there is a commitment to ensure that the rebuilt institutions and structures are more secure than they were before.
Disaster reconstruction in terms of shelter, livelihoods and economy have interested academicians and practitioners, as a result of which there has been considerable literature on guidelines and principles on shelter management, rehabilitation approaches and restitution practices. However the coverage is patchy; focus is techno-‐centric; and very little attention is paid to critical infrastructure like water – sanitation. There seems to be an obvious lack of understanding the prevalent local practices and cultural context. Evaluative studies fail to incorporate learning of how these practices and approaches to promote resilience to disasters in general.
Hence there is a need to collate and generate findings and evaluate approaches that will lead to sustainable and resilient communities with the sectoral focus on WASH services and facilities.
Today is the UN – declared World Water Day celebrated internationally. March 22. Come tomorrow and the commitments and goals set by agencies across the world will just remain another traditional target or project outcome to be achieved. In reaching out to the numerous populations, all the humanitarian and development agencies see are numbers. The latest Joint Monitoring Project 2012 report released last month claimed to have achieved the Millenium Development Goal target for water, to halve the population without access to basic supply of drinking water. The week preceding world water day saw an international gathering of professionals in Marseilles, France, in 6th World Water Forum for redrafting and reaffirming the world that development concerns across the world remain unmet and so long as there is a gap in service delivery, international institutions will continue with greater commitment towards achieving this objectives. All it could claim was an increasing presence of civil society members across 80 countries mentioning and addressing the same concerns and solutions which are termed success stories yet are want of a sustainable model for growth in water and sanitation domain. Friends and colleagues who were part of the forum, came back feeling there is a rhetorical approach towards water and sanitation issues, while the larger issues of equitable distribution, quality and access remain non-committal concerns. Is there a need now to celebrate the achievements or look back at why the service delivery mechanisms have failed despite using a plethora of approaches ranging from top down demand driven programmes to bottom up, community driven approaches. There has to be a global paradigm shift in the approach to water and sanitation concerns of not just the developing world, but equally addressing practices and policy gaps in the developed industrialized nations.
Just to end this first blog report as part of my doctoral work on water and sanitation resilience in post disaster recovery, I would like to end with a quote by Leonardo da Vinci, “In time and with water, everything changes ” emphasising the critical role played by water in each and every life that it touches on this planet and elsewhere.