World Water Day 2020

2020 World Water Day marks 27 years of celebrating the Day, instituted in 1992 by the UN, to draw attention to the importance of freshwater and advocate the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year, the focus of the celebration is on water and climate change, highlighting the fact that if we are to achieve climate and development goals, water must be at the core of climate-related actions. While some people do not want to refer to it as climate change, experts agree that higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable, weather conditions are climate-related.
These affect availability and distribution of rainfall, river flows and groundwater, and eventually deteriorate water quality and quantity. Climate change is mainly caused by emission of greenhouse gases, which causes a ‘blanket’ in the atmosphere trapping the sun’s energy within the earth leading to high temperatures. Greenhouses gases are released mainly through industrial activities and deforestation among other factors. This global phenomenon exhibits itself largely through changes in the water cycle. As the climate changes, droughts, floods, melting glaciers, sea-level rise and storms intensify or alter, often with severe consequences. As a result, water availability is becoming less predictable in many places, while, increased incidences of flooding threaten to destroy water points, sanitation facilities and contaminate water sources. In some parts of the world, droughts are intensifying water scarcity and thereby negatively impacting people’s health and productivity.
According to the World Health Organisation, increasing temperatures on the earth and more variable rainfalls are expected to reduce crop yields in many tropical developing regions, where food security is already a problem. While, the UN noted that more than two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, it predicts that the situation will likely worsen as populations and the demand for water grows, and as the effects of climate change intensify. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification has projected that with the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, which is just 10 years away, water scarcity in some dry and semi-dry regions will displace between 24 million and 700 million people. In other words, water scarcity will lead to more climate-related refugees and migration. The projection by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO is even worse, particularly for Sub-Saharan Africa. It says 60 years from now, by 2080, land unsuitable for agriculture in the region due to severe climate, soil or terrain constraints may increase by 30 to 60 million hectares.
UNICEF is of the view that climate change will have its most direct impact on child survival through three direct channels of changing disease environments, greater food insecurity, and threats to water and sanitation. The organization again predicted that in the next 20 years, one in four of the world’s children under 18 totalling some 600 million in all will be living in areas of extremely high water stress. All of these scenarios about how climate change is affecting or will affect agricultural output, health, sea-level rise, children, communities and extreme weather including wildfire, are all basically water-related issues. To this end, ensuring that everyone has access to sustainable water is a critical climate change action that must be taken from now on. It is in recognition of the urgency in addressing climate change impacts on water and in line with Sustainable Development Goals 6 on water and sanitation, and 13 on climate change, that this year’s World Water Day has been devoted to water and climate change.
The celebration of the Day serves as a reminder that living with climate change will mean coping with the impacts on water, whether too much or too little, and taking the necessary steps to reduce the vulnerabilities of communities and economies. It establishes the fact that water plays a crucial role in how the world mitigates and adapts to the effects of climate change. It is our prayer that all stakeholders will work together in ensuring the availability of water at all times.
BY AMA KUDOM-AGYEMANG AN ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNICATOR

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