OFID Quarterly April 2017 - Water makes the world go around

from OPEC Fund for International Development
Published on 16 May 2017 View Original

Water: Are we all too wet behind the ears?

March 22 marked World Water Day; a day when we’re all supposed to take action to tackle the water crisis. But how many people even know there’s a crisis to be tackled? Certainly, a good few in the developing world will be aware that there’s something not quite right, since a full 1.8 billion of them still use a contaminated source of drinking water. This puts them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

In line with this, the theme of this issue of the OFID Quarterly is water; the absolute bedrock for all living things on our planet and a basic human right. As one of our interviewees put it on page 9 in our lead feature on sustainable water management, there’s simply no getting away from the importance of water.
Today, she explained, we’ve proved that a plant can grow without soil, but it cannot grow without water.

How then do we explain the statistics that continue to make for such alarming reading? In addition to the 1.8 billion number (which is more than enough on its own), the UN also predicts that water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population and is projected to rise. Add to this the thought that more than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or seas without any treatment and it seems we’re in a real mess.

Indeed, as this publication was going to press, news broke that the UK’s Thames Water had been hit with a record fine of £20.3m after huge leaks of untreated sewage into the River Thames and its tributaries. The prolonged leaks led to serious impacts on residents, farmers and wildlife, killing birds and fish, newspapers reported; this in a supposedly developed country.

It’s not all doom and gloom of course. Significant progress was made under the Millennium Development Goals. According to the UN, in 2015, 6.6 billion people, or 91 percent of the global population, used an improved drinking water source, versus 82 percent in 2000. The adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 6 proves that there is now the political consensus to take collective action. It doesn’t simply aim to tackle the problems of inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, but also the sustainability of resources too.

For its part, OFID’s contribution to the water and sanitation sector reached US$1,151m as of year-end 2016. These resources have supported a wide range of operations, from large-scale water storage, treatment and distribution projects to village pumps and school latrines, as well as schemes for the rationalization of water use in arid regions.

Along with energy and food, water forms part of OFID’s strategically critical nexus. This nexus is about recognizing that energy, water and food are intrinsically linked and that issues in one sector cannot be addressed in isolation. This organization’s 40-years of experience has demonstrated that uncoordinated interventions in the energy, water or food sectors often result in risks and uncertainties across the three sectors.

OFID has made clear its readiness to mobilize all means at its disposal to address these issues and consequently the energy–water–food nexus is the central theme of its Corporate Plan 2016–2025. The organization has aligned its business strategy with the new development agenda and its approach for the next 15 years. Based on this Plan, 70 percent of OFID’s activities in the coming decade will be dedicated to these critical sectors, with transportation as an additional enabling sector.

The truth is, we all have more to do as individuals and collectively. Back to our aforementioned interviewee who notes that for a long time, many of us have been talking about our carbon footprint. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about our water footprint too, she muses.