HAMILTON, Canada, Oct 07 (IPS) – It is not uncommon for water-focused research, policy or development agencies or networks to announce a long-term vision of a “water-safe world”. It reads beautifully and feels great.
And it is understandable and reasonable that it is understood that a water-safe world is the place where “water security” is guaranteed. In every country.
The concept of “water security” has largely emerged on the global stage over the past two decades. Its shortest and most elegant definition is that water security is “a tolerable level of water-related risk for society.”
A conceptual framework for water protection based on a broader definition includes different needs and conditions that must be considered – water for drinking, economic activity, ecosystem, risk resilience, governance, border cooperation, financing and political stability.
Therefore, water security is not only about how much natural water a country has, although it is also very important, but also how well the resources are managed.
Water security is considered an integration concept that can help coordinate efforts towards a common goal. This general goal, however, remains unclear. Absolute water security is simply nowhere to be found and will never be.
The devil, as usual, is in the details: How do you define “tolerable”, “adequate”, “acceptable” – and other adjectives and variables that usually reflect the uncertainty associated with water protection systems?
Perhaps the most advanced initiative for measuring water safety, started almost a decade ago with regular updates, the Asian Water Development Outlook. It basically follows the principles of water protection conceptual structure mentioned above and employs more than 50 indicators to rate its various aspects.
The latest outlook (2020) suggests that New Zealand, Japan and Australia are the most water-protected countries in the Asia-Pacific region, while Afghanistan is the most water-insecure.
This is hardly surprising: the more developed a country is, the more effective its water management, the higher its water protection ranking, even though the country’s water resources are limited.
Also, such a regionally centralized assessment compares the limited selection of countries and reflects a relatively relative “state” rather than how close or far countries are from achieving certain global values or milestones.
There is uncertainty surrounding water security measures. All this has implications for development.
One obvious thing is that the water-protected world we imagine is either a mirage or a “putting out concept”. The first is deception, the second is unattainable. Either way, the focus caused by the ambiguity is on the movement, not on the outcome, and conveniently making excuses that we are not going anywhere.
This may be reasonable, for example, based on water security, albeit precisely, with the Global Development Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6 (fully dedicated to water) and other water-related goals spread through the SDG continuum.
Yet, like water security, SDG’s goals are either “strategically vague” or simply undefined. SDG targets only.1.1: Public (i.e. 100% in each country) water supply; 6.2: universal (i.e. 100% in each country) sanitation; And 6.3: half (i.e. 50%, regardless of country specification) the proportion of obsolete wastewater worldwide is clearly quantitative.
Although unclear, whether their achievements by 2020 were politically or scientifically motivated. (The role of science in global water development, or lack thereof is another debate).
From this perspective, it is not surprising that the water-related SDGs scheduled for 2015 have clearly become overly ambitious; Indeed, it was acknowledged, even before the epidemic hit, for example, SDG6, off-track.
Going forward it may be more practical to define and measure some globally accepted water protection standards – such as developed, functional, optimal or similar categories.
The water condition of a country can then be seen in a context of these values, and it can, instead, help determine an action plan with a visible goal.
In addition, the visibility horizon should be immediate short-term পাঁচ five years or less যাতে so that accountability does not go to the next generation of experts, policymakers, and politicians.
Water protection standards need to be directly related to the number, type and scale of problems. To move from one standard to another, problems need to be eliminated, not just mitigated.
The “movement” towards Nirvana water security can then at least be well-organized. Achievements and remaining gaps should be easy to see and clear. And water science could eventually play a central, practical role in the process.
Going further, if we focus only on solutions তাহলে water protection philosophy may not be necessary at all অর্থাৎ that is, to eliminate well-known water problems in a process designed with short steps and clear measurable results, which should be realized in every generation.
Sadly, looking back over the last 50 years, it is really difficult to see a single global or regional water problem, which has actually been eliminated. And, accordingly, no country can currently boast that it is, in fact, water safe.
Much for a water-safe world.
Vladimir Smakhtin Director of the Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health at UN University, supported by the Government of Canada and hosted at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. The Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021.
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