SDG 6:CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION
Our planet’s surface comprises of less than 30% dry land and more than 70% water. To put it differently, for each area of land on our planet’s surface more than twice that is covered with water. So what’s all the hype about no water?
Well, of all of Earth’s water approximately 97% of it are oceans, seas or bays. The remaining 3% is spread out as underground water, glaciers and ice, water in our atmosphere, and surface water like lakes and rivers.
The only usable water for humans is in the last category – the fresh surface water, lakes and rivers. Even that is not all for humans, but for all plant and animal life as well.
The global volume of usable water worldwide is actually decreasing – increased global population means more people to use the limited resource; various forms of pollution affects the purity of the surface and ground water; improper treatment of sewerage and in some areas defecation in open fields lead to all sorts of contaminants getting into water systems.
SDG 6: COMPONENTS
The SDG 6 consists of eight goals to alleviate the most prominent global issues pertaining to water and sanitation. They are as follows;
ACTIONS ON A GLOBAL SCALE
There are many initiatives worldwide that target water in the form of non-profit organisations, for example Water.org, which works with local partner organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, to build wells and provide intensive training seminars on the importance of good hygiene practices and its link to better health. The nonprofit also created WaterCredit, an initiative that connects microfinance institutions to individuals and communities in developing countries who use their small loans to build themselves clean water mechanisms, from wells to toilets.
And then you have got trading organisations like Three Avocados, a social enterprise that generates funds for clean water in Africa through the sale of coffee. They donate 100% of their profits to building water projects in Uganda. They source the coffee from Uganda's Mt. Elgon by collaborating with small coffee growing cooperatives in Uganda. The coffee is fairly traded and organically grown - though uncertified because, as the nonprofit explains, the cost of certification is beyond the modest operation's budget.
Organisations WaterIsLife and PureMadi have used innovative filteration methods with the introduction of The Straw by WaterIsLife: which provides clean drinking water when immersed into a water source removing waterborne diseases with each sip. In the long term scope, the nonprofit teaches sanitation and hygiene education, as well as researches and implements sustainable long lasting clean water solutions that are tailored to each community, and monitored to ensure the longevity of clean water sources.
PureMadi, in South Africa, have developed ceramic filters that use local materials to effectively purify water. They built a sustainable filter factory that is locally run and produces the much needed product.
In terms of transboundary cooperation when it comes to water, the Diplomatic Republic of Congo is setting the trend by establishing ties between itself and neighbouring countries of central Africa to trade water which the Congo Basin surely provides more than the people of Congo can use. They can potentially help out countries like Zambia who recently suffered power cuts because effects of climate change meant they had too little water to rely on their usual hydropower plants for electricity.
International cooperation is facilitated and reinforced through bodies like the World Water Council which hosts conferences and forums to discuss policies and guidelines on a regional and international level related to water use and conservation. Incidentally, this year they are hosting the Budapest Water Summit 2016 which will adopt the Budapest Statement aimed at giving momentum to the implementation of this SDG in relation to the Paris Climate Agreement, link political decision-making to technology development, financing and public perception, and facilitate reform of international institution architecture supporting cooperation on water.
SDG 6: SEYCHELLES PERSPECTIVE
The Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) being the main municipality on water and wastewater in Seychelles has ensured that some of these goals are already being tackled if not already achieved. For example, at present more than 95% of homes have access to affordable drinking water. However, the general public have concerns as to the quality of the water. Whether it is unsafe to drink, or this is simply a matter of public perception is yet to be defined.
PUC has come a long way in providing reliable supply to homes, even as far as maintaining a now good level of desalinated water when we face long periods of dry weather. They have also gone quite a distance in reducing non-revenue water and aiming to improve water storage capacities.
Sewer lines have been laid in three main regions on Mahe, however, as is with similar systems in other countries, the general public is reluctant to connect to the lines in existing establishments. For new developments in the sewered areas, the authority for land development Planning Authority makes conditions such that developers find a great benefit in connecting to the lines, which in turn have a positive effect on the environment and allow for us to move one step closer to achieving adequate and equitable sanitation systems.
Nonetheless, the traditional method of using a septic tank and soak-away pit to handle waste water is fast becoming outdated, adding to the fact that they are poorly maintained in most cases. This results in poor conditions of ground water as was made apparent on La Digue island following floods in 2012. La Digue can no longer rely on their usual ground water supply for fear of contamination and use PUC’s desalinated water across the island. A sanitation master plan is being developed for the island at present.
All-in-all, we can see that Seychelles is getting a grip on supply of drinkable water, providing adequate sanitation systems to prevent ground water pollution, and awareness campaigns on the efficient use of water such as rain water harvesting methods and merits are on the rise through grassroots movement by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and one of the more prominent NGOs – Sustainability for Seychelles, better known as S4S.
A new NGO is in the making – WASPro. This is being done under the guidelines set by South African Developing Countries SADC Youth on Water as adopted in their Regional Strategic Action Plan IV. Together with other stakeholders like PUC, S4S and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change it is expected to educate the general public on the importance of these goals under this SDG in the hope that everyone plays their part in achieving them.
NEXT STEP FOR SEYCHELLES
Seychelles, despite having healthy annual rainfall, still experiences water cuts during drought because storage of water is not at its optimum and water is not being used efficiently. One of the solutions is therefore to reduce the per capita consumption which is currently at 150 litres of water per day per person, while many countries in Africa averages below 100 litres.
Getting more people to connect to the sewer lines in order to have more control over sanitation solutions and potentially re-use of treated waste water provides good opportunities for Seychelles.
Protection of our rivers by limiting our pollution levels and littering is a must. More education and awareness campaigns on all levels in this direction is a must.
Seychelles has a member participating in the Budapest Water Summit. Hopefully, in future, we can be more active in our participation in such events and adopt innovative yet simple solutions to prevent future crises relating to water, especially seeing as climate change is not making the task any simpler.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
It is not difficult to make a difference if everyone is doing one small step each. Here are some tips you can start adopting immediately:
No action is too small to be significant. Save Water. #BeBetter