‘Today 2.1 billion people live without safe water’

“NEW YORK: Water is vital for survival and, alongside sanitation, helps protect public and environmental health. Our bodies, our cities and our industries, our agriculture and our ecosystems all depend on it, says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on World Water Day.

In his message, he said that water is a human right and nobody should be denied access. This World Water Day is about upholding this right for all, leaving no one behind.

“Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe water due to factors such as economic status, gender, ethnicity, religion and age. Growing demands, coupled with poor management, have increased water stress in many parts of the world. Climate change is adding dramatically to the pressure. By 2030, an estimated 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity”, he said.

He added “we must encourage cooperation to tackle the global water crisis and strengthen our resilience to the effects of climate change to ensure access to water for all, especially for the most vulnerable. These are vital steps towards a more peaceful and prosperous future. As we strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we must value water resources and ensure their inclusive management if we are to protect and use this vital resource sustainably for the benefit of all people. “

With rapidly growing population in Pakistan, per capita surface water availability has declined from 5,260 cubic meters per year in 1951 to around 1,000 cubic meters in 2016.

This quantity is likely to further drop to about 860 cubic meters by 2025 marking Pakistan’s’ transition from a “water stressed” to a “water scarce” country (The minimum water requirement to avoid food and health implications of water scarcity is 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year).

At the same time, Pakistan was hit by one of the worst natural disasters – floodwaters inundated 38,600 kmarea in all four provinces and affected an estimated 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, infrastructure and lands of livelihood, with a death toll close to 2,000.

The resulting damages of about $10 billion were unprecedented in scale and magnitude-they were nearly half the cumulative total damages in the last 60 years. The infrastructural quality is weak and shelters in the region are not disaster resilient and hence cannot withstand floods, winds, and landslides, causing massive destruction.

The brunt of droughts and floods mostly falls on the poorest people of the country who reside in smaller and informal settlements where the infrastructure and construction are of poor quality.

UN Habitat provides a cross-cutting approach, through its focus on urban flood management and addressing  water scarcity issues. In this regard, UN Habitat receives endorsement from adaptation fund for managing urban flooding and water scarcity issues in Rawalpindi and Nowahera aiming to enhance community, local and national-level urban climate change resilience to water scarcity, caused by floods and droughts.

The project objectives and targets are well aligned with the National Climate Change Policy as well as new National Water Policy (2018) and National Flood Protection Plan (2016).

The main objective of the proposed project is to enhance community, local and national-level urban climate change resilience to water scarcity, caused by floods and droughts in Rawalpindi and Nowshera.

This will be achieved through the following sub-objectives: Enhance community- and household-level flood resilient water harvesting facilities (using innovative techniques) and strengthen capacities to plan, construct, operate, maintain and duplicate these.

Enhance city and district-level water harvesting facilities in public buildings and on water storages in public gardens, develop district / city-level spatial strategies as tool to assess climate change related floods, droughts and water scarcity to plan for and manage climate change risks and to strengthen capacities to plan, construct, operate, maintain and duplicate water harvesting facilities in public buildings and gardens.

Strengthen national-level capacity to guide / direct city-level development considering climate change and disaster risks and impacts, especially water scarcity caused by floods and droughts.

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