Rubab Nazar, Green Blogger.

Water and sanitation both have supreme importance and go hand by hand in maintaining the healthy standard of environment and life. Sanitation in a community has crucial role to ensure the healthy lifestyle by good practices of cleanliness and hygiene. In environment, water occurs in huge sources like rivers, oceans, lakes, dams and underground water. Human Beings uptake this water to fulfill their demands for drinking, household and industrial purposes. In the present world water has got contaminated by various means and one has to think over it before consuming water. Wastewater is generated during the industrial processes and is released directly into the water bodies without treatment. This is resulting in the depletion of clean water and also underground water is no more unpolluted. Wastewater and solid waste is highly linked with sanitation. Facilities and Services related to defecation must be improved especially in the third world countries. Currently, urban areas have more improved sanitation facilities than rural areas.  There is also an alarming threat that the world will face water scarcity soon because of its present over usage. Pakistan has much dependence on water as agriculture makes huge proportion of the country’s GDP. Besides all this, there are several diseases associated with water and sanitation which have immense health effect.

There are total 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) which were presented in United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and these goals should be achieved by 2030 (Agenda 2030). All SDGs can lead the world towards sustainability when they are brought in practice. SDG#6 highlights the importance of clean water and sanitation as the basic right of humans and this goal has further 6 targets. As mentioned above, all these targets must be met by 2030 so that the portion of people deprived of the availability of clean water and sanitation can be minimized.

·         Target 6.1 states that all the people must have an access to clean and safe drinking water by 2030.

·         Target 6.2 states that by 2030 availability of sanitation and hygiene must be ensured in a way that open defecation ends. This target specifically highlights the needs of women and girls who are at the sensitive edge of sanitation.

·         Target 6.3 proposes that water pollution must be reduced in a way that hazardous chemicals and materials should not be released into the water bodies so that the fraction of untreated wastewater gets halved by 2030. Thus, it will help in improving the water quality and in the end safe recycling and reuse can be practiced globally.

·         Target 6.4 addresses the issue of water scarcity and projected that by 2030 fresh water supply must be provided to the people suffering from water scarcity. This can be achieved when water is used efficiently by all sectors to ensure long-term freshwater availability to those people.

·         Target 6.5 addresses that by 2030 Integrated Water Resource Management must be implemented with rigid actions and it can be done through mutual cooperation among countries.

·         Target 6.6 highlights about the protection and restoration of the ecosystem that includes the involvement of water, i.e. rivers, mountains, lakes, wetlands, forests and aquifers.

·         6.A: Developing countries must be supported in the concern of clean water and sanitation by international cooperation till 2030. These countries should be encouraged about the activities and plans related to SGD 6. For Example: Programmes of wastewater treatment, water- use efficiency, recycling and reuse.

·         6.B: Local communities must be encouraged to participate in the improvement water and sanitation concerns.

 According to WHO, 663 million individuals around the world are still deprived of clean drinking water which is the basic need for survival. 673 million people in the world still use open defecation which leads to poor sanitation. Globally 2 billion people still consume drinking water from the sources polluted with faeces. Globally each two persons out of five still lack the facility of hand-washing. On the whole 71% of the world’s population has access to safe drinking water sources. Globally one thousand children die each day due to poor sanitation and diarrhea. Globally 40% of the world’s population is facing water scarcity and this threat tends to rise due to increasing population.

No doubt Pakistan has improved its sanitation services as compared to previous years, still 25 million people in Pakistan use open defecation. According to UNICEF, in Pakistan 53,000 children die each year of diarrheal diseases due to poor water quality and sanitary conditions. Pakistan has been ranked as 23rd water stress country out of 33 counties. In Pakistan 70% of the families consume drinking water contaminated with bacteria. Globally 80% of wastewater due to industrial activities is released into the water bodies without any wastewater treatment.

  There are several ways for improvement in regard to SDG 6:

Ø Community Education: Community plays an important role when whole mass of people is determined to attain a certain goal. Society should be guided about general hygiene and sanitation so that proper hand-washing can be ensured. If this goal is achieved, 35% of the global diarrheal cases can be minimized.

Ø Water Treatment in Homes: People should be guided that how they can ensure the safe usage of drinking water at home. Different kind of filtration and disinfection techniques can be adopted by people.

Ø  Water Quality Solutions: Many cheaper solutions can be used which can improve the water quality with low expenses. For Example: the usage of chlorine tablets as disinfection technique.

Ø  Eliminating Open Defecation: In many rural areas people are still unware of good sanitation and they use open defecation. Definitely, in such practice there will be no surety of proper handwashing. This practice should be ended as this is the main cause of various water related diseases and toilets must be used.

Ø  Hygiene in Schools: Students at schools must be provided with the basic knowledge of health and clean environment. At schools, children should be encouraged to practice appropriate handwashing so that their own hygiene can be ensured. This will result in the decrease of diarrheal diseases among children.

Ø  WASH in Hospitals: In hospitals, the principle of WASH Strategy should be applied. There are various patients in the hospitals who carry different diseases. Complete sanitation should be ensured at hospitals so that there are no further chances of diseases spread.

Ø  WASH in Natural Disasters: Many emergency situations (floods, earthquakes) can occur suddenly. Sanitation and hygiene should be assured in such crisis to avoid disease spread.

Government can take following actions for betterment of SDG 6 at country level:

Ø  Budget for Health: Education and Health are considered as the main priorities in developed counties who invest a lot for the betterment of these two. A suitable proportion of the economy must be invested for the improvement of these services with the help of technical advisors. In developing countries, the budget of a country is often imbalanced. There is need to improve the socio-economic conditions of a country in terms of good sanitation facilities.

Ø NGO’s Involvement: Government can involve Non-Governmental Organizations for the betterment of sanitary services in local communities. In this way, focused strategies can be made for the people living in backward areas who are even deprived of clean drinking water.

Ø  Good Governance: At country level, rigid policies must be made by the government and proper implementation of the Clean Water Laws must be assured. If a government has good will, there will be a visible change in country’s sanitary facilities.

Ø  Public Awareness via Media: Government can take step to create basic awareness among people about cleanliness and environment. Media can be encouraged to play its positive role when provided incentives by the government.

Ø  Usage of Modern Technologies: In general, water supply is provided by the government to the public. This water runs through underground pipelines. Government can improve the existing water systems with modern technologies. Various modern technologies of filtration and disinfection must be used by the government so that public can have availability of clean drinking.

 Currently, the world is suffering from the pandemic of Corona Virus whose preventive measures are directly related to sanitation. In COVID-19, not only person’s hygiene is important but also the household has to be cleaned. To avoid the spread of COVID-19, water is the basic requirement for frequent hand-washing. In this crisis, water demand is rising globally. According to World Economic Forum, 47% of the global population will face water scarcity in 2030 and now the outbreak of COVID-19 is developing the sense in people to avoid environmental degradation. According to a research, it is studied that in Lahore City, water usage has increased 10% due to Corona Virus. Lahore is the second most populous city of Pakistan with 11 million inhabitants. So, the water demand will rise accordingly. Before COVID-19, water usage of Lahore was 640 million gallons per month and now it has increased up to 700 million gallons.

About the Author: Rubab Nazar, a student of B.S (Hons) Environmental Science at GC University, Lahore. She is keen about writing for environment and climate change.