World Water Day

Young Sudanees refugee drinks dirty water at Kashuni refugee camp in Eastern Chad - C 

It’s World Water Day 2007 (March 22), an annual, international day of recognition of the world’s most precious resource, established by the UN after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The theme this year is “Coping with Water Scarcity. Check the full entry from WorldChanging, listing a number of interesting water and sanitation initiatives underway in the various parts of the world, including:

On the subject, the World Bank’s Poverty and Growth Blog reproduces an article by Peruvian writed Mario Vargas Llosa, on the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2006:

From this reading, the first conclusion I reach is that the emblematic object of civilization and progress is not the book, the telephone, Internet or the atomic bomb, but the toilet. Where human beings empty their bladder and intestines is the decisive factor to know if they still find themselves in the cruel underdevelopment or if they have started to make progress. The repercussions that this simple and very important fact has on people’s life are vertiginous…

In Dharavi, a populous part of Mumbai, there is only one toilet per 1,440 people, and in the rainy season the water flooding the streets turns them into rivers of excrements. The abundance of the liquid element is, in this case as in many third world cities, a tragedy, because, given the condition in which people live, water, instead of being life is often times the instrument of sickness and death…

In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo wrote that “sewers are the conscience of the city” and … he tried to do a strange interpretation of history through human excrement. This terrific report does something similar, without the poetry and eloquence of the great French romantic, but with a much better scientific knowledge.

“We are born among feces and urine”, wrote Saint Agustin. A shiver should shake us when we think that a third of our contemporaries never leave the filth in which they came to this valley of tears.

See also World Water Day by WaterAid.


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