Access to water | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 08, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 08, 2012

Access to water

Discrimination and challenges

Scarcity of and demand for potable water increasing by the day.

The International Water Week has just been observed (Aug 24-30) at the Swedish capital Stockholm and by concerned organisations elsewhere with a call for "More Food in Each Drop of Water" and a slogan seeking more "Water in Urbanised World". More than two thousand water specialists/activists from about two hundred countries attended the Stockholm meet representatives from Bangladesh including a researcher of DORP also participated. It may be mentioned that DORP (Development Organisation of the Rural Poor), an NGO, has been working on water for many years, specially with Bangladesh WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Alliance. WASH programme presently covers six sub-districts namely, Barguna sadar, Fakirhat, Ramganj, Kuliarchar, Bhuapur and Sirajganj sadar, funded by a Dutch NGO, Simavi.
DORP presented a case study titled 'Budget tracking: A civil society initiative in Bangladesh'. It was to draw the attention of the resource rich countries to the plight and struggle of resource discriminated developing countries in coping with and facing the challenge of the problem, in this case water.
The focus is on water, sanitation and hygiene for the most impoverished section of people living in some selected remote localities of rural Bangladesh who, and much more many others like them are less focused in budget allocation. Budget advocacy for them would ultimately matter in improving condition of the poorest of the poor in society.
The objective is poverty reduction through community empowerment increasing access to safe water and sanitation services as well as habituating women in the community and the marginalised to improved hygiene practices. On the other hand involving communities in budget monitoring is educating them on budget allocation and its use. Often service providers at upazila level are not fully oriented towards implementing the budget of Sectoral Development Plan (SDP). The monitoring would lead to the necessary implementation.
To achieve MDG target of water supply and sanitation by 2015, Bangladesh needs to spend USD 12.59/capita which is only USD 2.4/capita now. Out of many survey findings only a few are enough to reveal that gap between water luxury and water constrained countries. In the former 20 gallons of water is used to make a glass of beer and 32 gallons for a glass of wine. 100-176 gallons of water is used by an American a day. On the contrary, in the latter, women toil for hours fetching a pitcher of drinking water from far away places. Often it is drought, often it is salinity forcing them to toil away so many man hours without much profit. More than three million die due to water scarcity in a year and only two-and-a-half gallon of water is used by an African a day.
These disparities and constraints were among the issues raised at the weeklong water meet and sought solution to. Besides, there were some horrible findings by an earlier survey titled 'Water-rich Country versus Water-poor Country' conducted by the organiser International Water Institute of Stockholm partnering with Water Platform of FAO. Selected five water-rich countries are America, Canada, Uruguay, Japan and Cyprus and the five water-poor are Chad, Niger, Madagasker, Ethiopia and Sierra-Leone. We only wish there does not arise any serious conflict on water use and the constraint is consolated with cooperation.

The writer is a development and human rights organiser. e-mail:

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