19th November: World Toilet Day

HAPPY World Toilet Day – November 19th !

World Toilet Day is observed annually on 19 November. This international day of action aims to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge. 

For information, ideas, or to join in, see www.worldtoiletday.org

Join hundreds of thousands of people “who give a shit” !


(Source: WASRAG)

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Water makes beautiful


This is a wonderfully written piece recommended to me by a very very dear friend from Ghana.

It is about the simple fact that water makes a woman feel more beautiful.

Reference to this story: http://www.charitywater.org


Driving down a bumpy road in the middle of Northern Uganda, we were kicking up dust as we headed into the rural countryside. I was traveling with teams from two other non-profit organizations to evaluate the work of our shared local partner, Joy Drilling, who was drilling wells and training communities in sanitation and hygiene. Before piling in, I made a last minute decision to jump into the truck’s flatbed. The Ugandan drilling crew looked stunned that I’d do such a thing, but I didn’t care. I was happy to suffer a little dust for the view.

I have a pretty incredible job. As charity: water’s Water Project Manager, I travel to some of the most desperate places on earth in search of clean water. And while the landscape changes, there’s always one thing that remains the same: the women are always walking. Whether I’m trekking the mountains of Haiti, taking cover from a rainstorm in rural Liberia, or tramping through the jungles of Central African Republic, the women are always carrying water.

Helen Apio

From my vantage point in the truck, I watch women gather up their children and move to the edge of the road to let us pass. Their feet are gnarled and calloused: a result of thousands of miles walked barefoot over rocks and mud. With babies strapped to their backs, their brightly colored skirts sway and their knees quiver and brace under the weight of water and children. Most balance pails on their heads, while some grip 80 pounds of water with sweaty palms, a bright yellow 5-gallon Jerry Can in each hand.

I’m in awe of how they manage. But of course, they have no choice. The average woman in Africa walks three miles every day for water. Often, it’s water from putrid rivers or disease-infested swamps. Worldwide, women are more than twice as likely as men to collect drinking water.

Without warning, our truck swerves off the road and up over an embankment. Dried corn stalks thump against the side of the truck as we plow through a field. My knuckles are white as I try to hold on and not bounce out.

Moments later, we find ourselves in a clearing and in the middle of a huge celebration. Esther, our photographer, pokes her head out the window, smiles, and yells back at me, “Looks like our mission’s been compromised!” I usually prefer to surprise communities by our arrival because it makes it easier to monitor how our water points are functioning without hundreds of people watching. But once you visit a few communities in the neighborhood, rumors of your presence spread like wildfire.

We jump out of the truck and walk into a party. The women meet us with exuberant cheering and dancing. Pure and loud joy rocks the village.

* * *

This is when I met Helen Apio. While most women hung back politely, Helen jumped toward me and screamed two inches from my face. Technically, it was singing. But the high-pitched shrieking was so loud and reverberated with such energy and emotion, I knew I had to talk with her.

She told me about the new freshwater well in her village.

“I am happy now,” Helen beamed. “I have time to eat, my children can go to school. And I can even work in my garden, take a shower and then come back for more water if I want! I am bathing so well.”

A few of the men chuckled to hear a woman talk about bathing. But all I noticed was Helen’s glowing face, the fresh flowers in her hair, and the lovely green dress she wore for special occasions. Touching her forearm, I replied, “Well, you look great.”

“Yes,” she paused. Placing both hands on my shoulders and smiling, she said, “Now, I am beautiful.”

That really hit me.

My job is to focus on sustainable development, health, hygiene and sanitation; to make sure charity: water’s projects are working in 20 years. But nowhere on any of my surveys or evaluations was a place to write, “Today we made someone feel beautiful.”

How Helen became beautiful is the real story.

Before she had clean water, she would wake up before dawn, take her only two 5-gallon Jerry Cans, and walk almost a mile and a half to the nearest water point, which happened to be at a school. Because there simply wasn’t enough water for the area’s population, she’d wait in line with hundreds of other women who also valued clean water. Helen’s only other option was to skip the wait and collect contaminated water from a pond.

Helen spent most of her day walking and waiting. She told me each day she’d say to herself, “How should I use this water today? Should I water my garden so we can grow food? Should I wash my children’s uniforms? Should I use it to cook a meal? Should we drink this water?” With two children, one husband and 10 gallons, Helen had to make choices.

I saw the shame in her eyes when she described how she would return from her long trek to find her two young children waiting for her. They were often sent home from school because their uniforms were dirty. Helen just never had enough water.

I saw now why she was so eager to scream out her joy and gratitude. She wanted me to understand that this gift from charity: water was real. With the new well in her village, her life was transformed. She now had choices. Free time. Options. Also, Helen has been chosen to be the Water Committee Treasurer, collecting nominal fees from 51 households to use for the maintenance of their well. Water Committees are often the first time women are ever elected to leadership positions in villages.

Last month, Helen was standing in line waiting for water.
This month, she’s standing up for her community. And now, she is beautiful.


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Indian states adopt National Water Policy 2012

Indian states adopt National Water Policy 2012.

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Water: human rights vs economic good

The following article is copied from http://www.internationalwaterlaw.org/blog/category/human-rights/

It is about how to deal with “scarcity” of water. Treating it as an economic good by giving it a Price and thus value versus the fact that water as a vital resource for every human need should be treated in a Special way above any mere ecnomic good.

Water marketing vs. human rights

Two recent articles in The Economist – Water: Sin aqua non and Water rights: Awash in waste – suggest that the solution to world’s water problem is to improve efficiency. The articles explain, rightly, that “there is, globally, no shortage of water” and point at wasteful practices, especially in the agricultural sector, as a chief culprit in global problems related to water scarcity.  The authors, however, tread on sacred grounds by pooh-poohing the treatment of water as a basic human right (“Treating it as a right makes the scarcity worse”) and argue for a system of tradable water-usage rights. “Any economist knows what to do: price water to reflect its value.”

While the ideal of pricing water resources at their true value may have a ring of sanity in the abstract, in reality it threatens a fundamental human notion that water is so elemental to life that it deserves a unique status in our societal system. Many of the world’s religions, for example, regard water as a gift from God that cannot be bought or sold lest the gift be dishonored.  Moreover, by taking a purely economic approach to a component of life relegates life itself to the market.

Yet, there may be a viable middle ground, one that strikes a balance between the absolute needs of individual people for survival and growth, and those of society to ensure efficiency and, hence, the overall and long-term supply of fresh water resources.  While actual uses vary around the world, agriculture accounts for 70-80% of global water withdrawals, while industry takes less than a fifth.  That leaves less than 10% as the amount actually used for domestic purposes and sanitation by a population pushing seven billion.  What would happen if people were afforded a human right to access some minimal amount of water and then subject amounts used in commercial enterprise to the market?

According to the World Health Organization, the average person requires 20 L per day for basic subsistence and up to 70 L per day for maintaining a minimum quality of life.  Obviously, such minimum will vary depending on the climate of the individual’s environment.  Yet, on a global scale, this would be a proverbial drop in the buckets of global water withdrawals and consumption.  Certainly, some nations may have difficulty meeting even this minimal guarantee due to local scarcity of fresh water resources. And in such cases, the global community should step forward and help their fellow human beings.  Yet, the vast majority of countries should have little difficulty in providing and assuring access to such quantities.

As for the amounts used by agriculture and industry, water could be managed using market mechanisms that allow it to be traded as either a commodity or in the context of tradable usage rights.  As The Economist notes, “Water is rarely priced in ways that reflect supply and demand … Because most water use is not measured, let alone priced, trade rarely reflects water scarcities.”  The result is a highly inefficient system that justly could be accused of waste.  Again, The Economist: “Because water is usually free, thirsty crops like alfalfa are grown in arid California. Wheat in India and Brazil uses twice as much water as wheat in America and China. Dry countries like Pakistan export textiles though a 1kg bolt of cloth requires 11,000 litres of water.”

Even amounts used by people beyond a guaranteed allotment could be subject to pricing mechanisms and regulated market forces.  A tiered pricing system, for example, would allow for personal use beyond a minimum lifestyle (e.g., swimming pool) to those who can afford it while maintaining a minimum standard for all people.  It could also be used to subsidize the minimum guarantee for the rest of the population, at least for those who cannot afford even the basic cost.

Of course, the natural environment has yet to be addressed in this system.  And clearly, water for ecosystems, habitats, and species must be ensured through regulations that protect minimum instream flows, aquifer integrity, water quality, and other aspects of the environment.  Nonetheless, while we certainly have much more to do to on this front, ensuring water for the environment should not have to conflict with either recognizing access to water as a basic human right, or subjecting amounts used in commercial enterprise to the market.  Currently, when we total the percentages of water used by people, agriculture, and industry as 100%, we are simply identifying the amount withdrawn and used for human endeavor.  It in no way reflects the quantities of water left in rivers and aquifers, whether intentionally or not.  Certainly, in many parts of the world, that amount is inadequate for the needs of the environment, but that is, in part, a product of our current inefficiencies.  Yet, it is also a function of our priorities.  By enhancing efficiency and at the same time securing minimal guarantees for people everywhere, the reduced water stress would likely allow the raising of environmental priorities.

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India Water Week 2013 (8-12 April)

While there is a severe drought going on Maharashtra the India Water Week 2013 is held in New Delhi under the Motto: “Efficient Water Management: Challenges and Opportunities” organized by the Ministry of Water Resources.

This convention is dominated by engineers. The presentations were very technical, and not policy oriented or focused on social issues unlike the WWW, which was more policy oriented and conceptual. Apart from the Global Water Partnership and 2 World bank keynote speakers, presenting the South Asian Water Initiative (SAWI) the India Water Week hat delegates from all over India presenting their work.

The water week was held in Vigan Bhawan in New Delhi. Security seems to be though in India everywhere, not just in the capital. Vigyan Bhawan is decorated everyday in the 5 days with myrads of yellow and pink roses, and white lilies. Little bouquets of flowers and large arrays in front of every panel. The glossy brochures look fancy and smell of petroleum. A little balance sheet of water consumption: Little bisleri bottles with an average estimate of two per person per day talking about more than 2200 delegates makes 4400 per day. This multiplied by 5 days makes 22.ooo bottles.

Badges with blue ribbons (same as in WWW in Stockholm) and really nice Rucksacks and perfect and smooth organization thanks to an outsourced agency (apart from keeping the mobile phones when the president arrived. The phones were piled up OUTSIDE the premises under the counter!). There were fancy lunch coupons, oily food and tea breakes. Delegates of them more than 90 percent of the delegates were male government officials in the typical outfit of the Indian middle class men, black shoes, grey or black trousers with the accurate crease and shirt. During the lunch and tea breaks they que close-by-close. There is something very instinctive about it. Upper class Indians make fun of these people (as I could witness in the very conventional Sankalp unconvetion held in a fancy 5 star hotel…) and yet they are the backbone of the country. They hold the white collar jobs in the indian administration. Though the language of the convention is english, there was something very vernacular of the style. The smart ladies in Sarees from the outsourced organizer agency represent the urban english speaking elite.

There was the lady from Southafrica who is half indian and half south African, looking a bit lost at the convention. The young hip boys from OXCAM working for organizations such as Global water intelligence or being part of startup creating smart application for water users (http://nextdrop.org/). Smart and bold Indian-Americans from top american universities (waiving self-confidently their blue passports at the registration…) contrasting the young Tamil female researcher, coming from a very orthodox family. A woman with a strong will getting into the tamil mode of speaking while presenting her by-heart-learned paper. These are my impressions… and it was great to mingle in with the crowd of water experts.

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The IWA announces new Executive Director

Ger Bergkamp (PhD) has now been appointed Executive Director of the International Water Association. Ger Bergkamp has been a senior executive with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and more recently the Director-General (Executive Director) of the World Water Council.

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Impression of the India Water Week 2013

Impressions of the India Water Week 2013 will follow soon…


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Inaugeration of the India Water Week 2013 by the president

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