In March, 2003, water was the subject of much discussion in Kyoto, Japan, where a world water conference was conducted. The UN has declared 2003 as the international year of fresh water. The Johannesburg Earth Summit in August, 2002, agreed to enhance the number of people with safe access to clean water and basic sanitation double fold by 2015. Today, over a billion people in the developing countries do not have adequate access to water and 2.
4 billion lack basic sanitation. Water also formed a part of the deliberations at the 2003 G8 Summit held in Evian, a French town located on the border of Switzerland. It is generally believed that water consumption inexorably grows with income and population and that this will lead to increasing shortages and even to war. The world is fast running out of water, they say that extravagant domestic consumption is to blame.
It is now argued that the world is falling short of water partly because the natural cycle perpetually releases it but also because the growth in water consumption no longer seems to be co-related to growth in GDP and population. In 1930s, it took 200 tonnes of water to make a tonne of steel in America; now it takes only 2 tonnes of water and the best Korean method even less. At present, millions of poor people (usually women) must walk for several hours a day to get water; or they pay through the nose to vendors for procuring water. As many as 60% of the world’s diseases are water related. The Johnnesburg Summit requires action to meet the target of sanitation. For instance, 4 lakh new people would need to be provided with sanitary facilities every day; daunting target, especially in countries lacking good government. According to the global water partnership “Water is a problem of governance, above all”.
In India, the availability of clean water and sanitary facilities are of immediate priority. The gastro related diseases owe their origin to drinking of polluted water and insanitary conditions. Millions of people in this country have to search for clean and affordable sanitary facilities. A few private organisations like Sulabh have played an important role in this direction.