World Water Day - March 22:
World Water Day for celebration or education?
As a day is designated to celebrate even trivial things in the world
today, important events such as the World Water Day can easily go amiss.
Waste not, want not
On this day, which has been commemorated on March 22 annually since
1993, we must question our eligibility to celebrate the cause as most of
us are transgressors of wasting water on a daily basis on habitual
grounds in the name of convenience.
Although many people in the country are unaware of this fact, like
any other nation, Sri Lanka too has people who lack access to clean
water. "Only 82-83 percent of people have access to clean water of which
pipe-borne water accounts for 40 percent," Secretary to the Ministry of
Water Supply and Drainage, A. Abeygunasekara told the Sunday Observer.
One can question how this is the case when we have long stretches of
rivers, mesmerising lakes and a blanketing coastline which leads one to
think that we are a water-rich nation. However, we fail to comprehend if
this water is fit for drinking.
"Gone are the days our rivers and lakes contained drinkable water.
The amount of toxic waste and agro-chemical refuse that pollute our
water is not very conducive although most rivers have not been
The closer we move towards urbanisation and industrialisation, the
higher the degree of water pollution. Recently we set up a water
distribution operation for nearly 50 families in Billava, Anuradhapura
because they were deprived of clean water due to a polluted river,"
It is puzzling how urbanisation can pollute water because it is an
obvious stimulus in improving our living standards. "Only 2.5 percent of
the country's population use pipe sewerage; the others have on-site
sanitation which is a major cause of water pollution under flooding and
other weather conditions," he said.
The recent floods that hit many parts of the country exposed clean
water to sewage and surprisingly areas such as Borella, Nawala and
Rajagiriya in the city were affected by this situation too,"
Turn the tap off while brushing teeth
The Ministry of Water Supply and Drainage has joined hands with
UNICEF this year to commemorate the World Water Day under the theme
‘Water and Urbanisation’. They will together aim at educating people on
the waste of water, the widespread diseases caused by consuming unclean
water and re-iterate the practice of rain water harvesting where
"Rain water harvesting was implemented some time ago, but we want to
make people more aware of the benefits of using rain water for
gardening, sanitation and other washing activities while using clean
water only for cooking and drinking purposes," he said.
UNICEF claims that almost 50 percent of the population of the
developing world - 2.5 billion people - lack improved sanitation
facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water
Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with
poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every
day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for
Kidney infections, cholera and diarrhoea are among some of the most
prominent diseases contracted due to the consumption of unclean water.
Boil water intended for drinking purposes and fill only the quantity
needed, he said.
This does not only make one healthy, but helps save water too.
It is our fundamental responsibility to ensure that we minimise water
waste, but how?
* Turning the tap off while brushing teeth will save at least 15
gallons of water a month, which is 180 gallons a year.
* Turning off the shower while shampooing or taking shorter showers
will save at least two gallons of water a day, which is 60 gallons a
month and 720 gallons a year.
* Don't use the toilet as an ashtray or waste paper basket. This
wastes nearly 5-6 gallons of water per instance so the more you flush,
the more you waste water.
* Repair leaks immediately or at least tape the area to avoid
leakage. This is one of the biggest contributors to water wastage
* Use the washing machine with a full load; be patient until worn
clothes accumulate or handwash if a single garment needs to be washed.
The World Water Day can be our starting point to become more aware of
the importance of water. Let us read about it, talk about it and most of
all act on it. The modern world encourages us to chase after technology
at the expense of nature. No matter how advanced we become or how many
other planets we step into, where nature is concerned, what you give is
what you get.
Most Gulf countries can afford to buy water as long as they have the
oil reserves to support them, but for a country such as Sri Lanka that
still strives on tourism, water should never become a high-priced
commodity. We have the power to control waste and we should embark on it
to prove to the world that we are a practically literate nation.
All awareness programs and re-iterations can be in vain if we do not
contribute to protect this vital resource which is becoming scarce.
At a time climate change and natural disasters are creating mayhem
around the globe, most of us still enjoy the luxury of unobstructed
access to clean water. This does not mean we have an advantage over
those who are deprived of clean water; it just means that we have an
extra responsibility to think twice before using water unnecessarily.