bodies in the GangesThe Ganges River is filled with dead bodies and lined with shallow riverside graves that dogs often dig up. According to estimates, people dug 4,000 graves along just one mile of the Ganges riverbank in Uttar Pradesh between mid-April and mid-May 2021. Families of the dead float their lost loved ones’ bodies in the Ganges or bury them on the riverbank because they cannot afford cremation, especially in the impoverished rural states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Increased Cremation Costs

Cremation for non-COVID-19 deaths in India generally costs around 5,000 rupees, but crematoriums have raised prices for those who have died of COVID-19 to around 22,000 to 30,000 rupees. Because of the high cost of cremation, many people living in poverty are submerging their lost loved ones in the river or resort to burying bodies on the shore.

Traditionally, Hindus in India float certain bodies in the Ganges, including those of people who die of infectious diseases. Now, though, with the COVID-19 crisis causing cremation costs to soar, people are disposing even more bodies than usual in the Ganges.

Fears and Economic Costs

Some worry that the bodies in the Ganges could spread COVID-19. Experts say that the dumping of bodies may not lead to increased COVID-19 cases, but could lead to other infections from polluted drinking water. However, the Jal Shakti Ministry, an Indian government ministry focused on water, claims that the bodies have not polluted the river.

Nevertheless, fear of poor water quality and coronavirus spread has led to declining fish sales. One fisherman said, “So far we have lost Rs 50,000… No one is buying fishes because of fear.” There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through the consumption of fish and the only carnivorous fish in the Ganges are illegal to catch. Still, some are refusing to eat fish from the Ganges. The greater danger, though, is that the Ganges provides water for drinking, bathing and irrigation for more than 400 million people.

Governmental Recommendations

In response to the crisis of bodies in the Ganges, India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for legislation addressing the dignity and rights of the dead. It has given 11 recommendations:

  1. Protecting the rights of the dead.
  2. Establishing temporary crematoriums for timely cremations.
  3. Mandating that staff learn proper procedures for the handling of dead bodies and safety equipment.
  4. Allowing last rites that do not involve touching dead bodies.
  5. Allowing local authorities to perform the appropriate last rites in the absence of family.
  6. Encouraging the use of electric crematoriums rather than funeral pyres to avoid smoke-related health hazards.
  7. Prohibiting piling of dead bodies.
  8. Prohibiting mass burial or cremation.
  9. Providing criteria for identifying bodies and protecting information about the dead.
  10. Regulating the cost of transit of the dead.
  11. Ensuring that those working with the dead receive proper pay and are a priority for vaccination.

Solutions

India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is monitoring the Ganges and its tributaries closely, liaising with state and local health departments as well as pollution agencies. After the Jal Shakti Ministry asked that governments ensure the proper disposal of bodies, the Bihar government is taking action. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has also asked authorities to properly dispose of unidentified bodies and to detail the actions taken in submitted reports. The Indian government has also installed a net to catch the bodies in the Ganges.

Along with preventing the dumping of bodies in the Ganges, state agencies must prevent citizens from burying bodies in riverbanks, support cremation and provide education on the proper use of river water.

– Hilary Brown
Photo: Flickr

The Thirst Project For many in developed countries, it is easy to take for granted how accessible clean water is at any given moment. However, this is not the case in lower-income countries. The Thirst Project is making waves in the global water crisis by providing support and better access to water for communities around the world.

About the Thirst Project

The Thirst Project is committed to building clean water wells and increasing access to clean water around the globe. Clean water improves the health, economy and overall wellbeing of the communities that the project serves. Safe water also improves hygiene and protects the community from diseases. Additionally, clean water wells and water filters not only provide safe drinking water but also offer the resources to create a healthier agricultural environment.

Over the past year, the Thirst Project has formed valuable partnerships to create additional funding opportunities. These partnerships also increase visibility and engagement in the organization. Shawn Mendes recently created a partnership with Flow, an eco-friendly alkaline water company, to create a new line of alkaline water flavors.

Moreover, the Shawn Mendes Foundation, along with other companies and the Thirst Project, will provide grants and awards to the many “young people and youth-focused organizations working on water conservation and clean water access.” As part of this partnership, the Thirst Project and the other grantees will have access to the Shawn Mendes Foundation’s Instagram where they can use the platform to highlight their mission, current work and projects. This will increase the overall awareness of the organizations and promote the Thirst Project’s work.

Renaissance Renovations

The Thirst Project continues to build its partnerships with local companies as well. In April 2021, Renaissance Renovations highlighted their partnership with Thirst Project. Renaissance Renovations acknowledged the amount of clean water the company consumes in its business of power washing. Moreover, the owner of Renaissance Renovations, John Orsillo, committed to making a difference. Orsillo is also passionate about the importance that youth play in helping to make a difference. Renaissance Renovations has committed to donating 1% of the company’s revenue to the Thirst Project. Moreover, Renaissance Renovations has launched its own fundraising campaign with a $12,000 goal. The donations will go toward the funding of a well for a water-insecure community.

Youth Contributions

The contributions of the youth set the Thirst Project apart from many other nonprofits. After Thirst Project volunteers visited a high school in Williamsburg, Virginia, a local teen became motivated to do his part in contributing to the water crisis efforts. Bryce McHose and a few of his classmates have launched a personal fundraising effort. These efforts have rendered monetary contributions through various fundraisers, including local car washes and partnerships with local businesses. Contributions are put toward the overall goal to raise enough funds to cover the cost of one $12,000 well. McHose and his classmates are dedicated to contributing to sustainable access to clean water around the globe.

Addressing the Water Crisis

Contributions do not always appear through funds. It takes a significant amount of people to make fundraising efforts impactful and the Thirst Project is mobilizing its contributors in any way it can. By utilizing a strong youth support system and creative partnerships, the nonprofit is creating platforms for volunteers to contribute their time, resources and money to give attention to the global water crisis and the importance of global access to clean water.

Janell Besa
Photo: Flickr

Inadequate Sanitation In IndonesiaCommunities throughout Indonesia are receiving help with sustainable and clean water access. Sanitation poses a significant threat to the health and safety of people in Indonesia. USAID reports that 2.4 billion people worldwide have inconsistent access to sanitation. The organization predicts that nearly 40% of the world does not use safe toilets. This can significantly increase the spread of infection and disease.

Proper sanitation is crucial in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, which are more severe to those living in poverty without access to adequate healthcare. The primary cause of child mortality in Indonesia is diarrhea. Typhoid is also a leading threat to the health of Indonesians. Both diarrhea and typhoid are amplified by inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and limited water supply.

Water Contamination Spreads Disease

According to USAID, “In Indonesia, one in three people does not have access to a flush toilet, latrine or septic system.” Instead, many Indonesians defecate in the streets, which further compromises the health and safety of people living in those communities. Rivers, streams and runoff are often the only water source for residents of rural areas. Without proper resources for treatment, water can carry diseases that are harmful and even deadly to those who consume it.

Only about 7% of wastewater in Indonesia is treated. As a result, many communal water access areas have contaminated water. In impoverished areas, it is not sustainable for communities to continually purchase bottled water. In the capital city, Jakarta, pollution can be found in 96% of the water. There is also a widespread disconnect from infrastructure in residential areas, leaving hundreds of families without consistent access to sanitation.

With the new challenge of the pandemic, Indonesia is facing the highest fatality rate in Asia as a result of inadequate access to sanitation, which is necessary to fight the spread of the disease. When families are struggling to meet their basic needs for consumption and hygiene, regular hand washing and adequate sanitization practices are not a priority.

Educational and Financial Support

Organizations like UNICEF are supporting the government of Indonesia. They help provide more frequent and safe access to sanitation and drinking water. In emphasizing education and health literacy during primary school, UNICEF aims to get ahead of the problem. “Over the past 25 years, the rate of access to sanitation facilities has nearly doubled across the country, increasing from 35% in 1990 to 61% in 2015,” reported USAID. USAID has also greatly contributed to this cause. In 2015, the organization helped more than 2.2 million Indonesians improve their water supply and provided better sanitation to 250,000 people.

The IKEA Foundation is also fighting the issue by providing microfinance loans to Jakarta for the introduction of pipelines and water access to rural residential areas. Families living in low-income areas are spending a lot of money to purchase water. With the installation of pipelines and clean well systems, sanitary water is becoming more accessible and affordable to those who need it most.

Ally Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Hungarian Water Pollution CrisisHungary, a landlocked country in Central Europe, ranks among the highest poverty rates in Europe. Nearly 33% of Hungary’s 10 million inhabitants are at risk of complete poverty if they forgo just three months of income. Hungarians with lower income disproportionally face many struggles, including obtaining affordable water. The Hungarian water pollution crisis affects everyone within the country, especially those in poverty, but water sanitation has thankfully seen improvements in recent years. However, there is still a dire need to increase efforts in order to achieve clean water for all.

The Danube River

Because of its landlocked status, Hungary’s primary source of water comes from the Danube River. This groundwater provides water for 90% of the Hungarian population. Additionally, this river basin covers nearly 10% of Europe and extends to 19 countries, providing 80 million people with water. Its water is used for drinking, energy, production, agriculture and transport. Those near Danube River rely heavily on it as a vital resource, but it’s currently not safe to do so. The river poses a threat to those whose utilize it due to the large presence of pollutants.

The river is contaminated with a variety of harmful substances: organic pollution, nutrient pollution, hazardous substance pollution and microbial pollution. The main factor causing this pollution in untreated wastewater. Corporations often have inadequates processes and facilities to properly treat water before releasing into the river basin. The untreated water then flows into villages and smaller cities that typically don’t have the means to purify the water to a safe level. These dangerous conditions make the water unsuitable for consumption, but Hungarians largely have no other options for obtaining water. Aid is needed to bring clean and drinkable water to all Hungarians, especially to those in poverty and in rural areas.

GEOInsight’s Technology for Water Pollution

The Hungarian start-up GEOInsight works to analyze data in a useful and digestible way. Its mission is to find data showcasing areas with heavily polluted water and use absorbents to treat those areas. These absorbents are ecological machines that measure the amount of waste and remove the micropollutants. GEOInsight focuses its efforts on natural adsorbents in water as a way to fight against water pollution.

Hungary’s government as well as the industries dispelling the wastewater can utilize GEOInsight to combat the water pollution in Hungary. GEOInsight can aid these organizations in understanding the data behind the polluted water. GEOInsight can also work with the organizations to help figure out what question needs to be asked in order to solve this water crisis. In addition, GEOInsight can help to create solutions for the problem. To specifically combat the Hungarian water pollution crisis, GEOInsight began developing technologies to detect micropollutants. The organization’s technologies more accurately remove pesticides better than conventional wastewater treatments.

Earlier this year, the start-up partnered with the water waste management company in Hungary, Hungary’s Department of Aquaculture and UTB Envirotec. GEOInsight, through its mission and partnerships, aims to solve the Hungarian water pollution crisis that increases the dangers of thousands of Hungarians on the brink of total poverty.

Hungary’s Partnerships For Progress

Hungary has been striving to clean its water system in a multifaceted approach. Since 2009, Hungary has funded research that seeks solutions to decontaminating the Danube River. It has even looked beyond its borders to try to fix the Hungarian water pollution crisis. Hungary partners with Slovakia to coordinate water quality, Romania to coordinate environmental risks and with the Czech Republic to coordinate energy priority. These intergovernmental measures are vital in the fight for water safety as are the local companies. With continued focus, advocacy and policies directed toward clean water and water accessibility for all, the Hungarian water crisis can finally be put to an end.

Vanessa Morales
Photo: Flickr

Groundwater Wells in Venezuela
Amidst the current problematic economic situation and levels of poverty in Venezuela, urban and rural sectors are going deep to find water due to poor access to safe water. Geographical studies or dowsing are the most common methods of creating local groundwater wells in Venezuela.

Poverty in Venezuela

In terms of the poverty statistics of Venezuela, between the years 2008 and 2013, the country ceased the process of poverty reduction and the government stopped providing poverty statistics. Since then, a group of national universities called ENCOVI has implemented independent studies regarding poverty in Venezuela.

According to ENCOVI, 67% of the Venezuelan population is living in extreme poverty while 94% are in poverty. No other country in the region holds numbers as high as these.

Water Access in Venezuela

A 2019 to 2020 report stated that 77% of people in Venezuela enjoyed aqueduct access. Meanwhile, 12% had access to water via water truck, 3% garnered water from public taps and 9% retrieved water from wells.

Despite having a well-established aqueduct system nationwide, many communities do not have a guaranteed and continuous source of clean water. In fact, only one out of four houses have a continuous supply of water, while the majority (59%) can only obtain water on certain days of the week. Meanwhile, the remaining 15% is only able to garner water once a month. On top of this deficient service, the quality of the water is often poor. Reports have said that the water often has a foul smell, yellow color and sediment.

Solutions

Urban and rural communities have decided to solve this problem themselves. This has led to urban areas hiring private companies to implement geological studies and find underground water reservoirs. Rural communities can do the same if they have the economic resources, but if they do not, they opt for dowsing.

The total cost to explore and drill a water well hovers between $15,000 to $25,000. This sum is an orbital number due to Venezuela’s current economic situation. However, with great sacrifice, urban communities can collect this sum in many different ways.

In addition to this effort, local governments are also attempting to find a solution to this problem. In fact, some have taken on the full cost of building the water wells.

The Process of Building Local Groundwater Wells in Venezuela

A scientific method to detect water underground involves the use of a piece of equipment called an Earth Resistivity Meter. It injects electricity into the subsoil through some stainless-steel electrodes that those doing the testing nail into the soil to determine the receptivity of the layers of the ground and subsoil as well as groundwater covers. Various methods use electricity to explore the soil and subsoil to find a water reservoir.

While this works well for some areas, rural areas frequently have challenges due to a lack of funds. Despite this situation, some rural communities have opted for the dowsing method. With the help of two y-shaped branches of a pigeon pea plant, these communities can detect water underground. Normally, dowsing experts survey the area near ravines, and after several experiments, the branches will tilt down indicating the water reservoir.

Other communities go simpler and go along with their intuition by perforating the ground until they find water. However, the problem with this method is that these wells are not well made and the quality of water is dubious if not dangerous.

Efforts of UNICEF to Provide Safe Water

In 2019, UNICEF began working with the Venezuelan government to supply safe water to Venezuelans. Some methods that UNICEF and the Venezuelan government will take include repairing and improving water systems, providing supply water trucks and chlorinating water in many impoverished communities.

From a panoramic perspective, building local groundwater wells in Venezuela is necessary to supply local communities. No shortcut exists regarding solving this problem. To tackle this issue, Venezuela requires economic investments from both the private and public sectors to bring the vital resource of water to all of its citizens.

– Carlos Eduardo Velarde Vásquez
Photo: Flickr

Water Management in ThailandThailand is a country known for its many wondrous sights, from its lush beaches to its luxurious temples that scatter the country. Despite these amazing locations that attract tourists is a lesser-known but just as impressive fact. Thailand is currently improving water and sanitation for the benefit of its people. The government in Thailand understands the need for Thai people to have better access to clean water and sanitation. According to a joint report released by the United Nations (U.N.) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, Thailand has been able to provide better sanitation for 93% of its population. Additionally, improving water management in Thailand has led to 96% of citizens having reliable drinking water. These results show that the government of Thailand takes water quality and improved sanitation seriously.

Water Management Challenges in Thailand

What makes improving water and sanitation in Thailand difficult is the current challenges of droughts and floods. Flooding takes place in Thailand quite often during the monsoon season when the country receives heavy amounts of rain. Additionally, the overflowing of dams during heavy rains also contributes to flooding.

The government of Thailand plans to deal with these challenges by implementing water management projects in the country’s 25 river basins. The government will work with the communities that live in these areas to prevent further droughts and floods.

The Thai government also plans on making changes to the infrastructure of the country. These changes include improving the transportation system of water throughout the country. It plans on creating more inland and coastal ports to help further this goal and make Thailand a transportation hub.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6)

Thailand is strongly committed to SDG 6 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose of SDG 6 is to help countries around the world improve water and sanitation. The U.N. notes that issues that come from lack of water resources and sanitation could displace 700 million people by 2030.

Fortunately, Thailand is already delivering on its commitment to SDG 6. The Thai Government’s 2017 Voluntary National Review reports that due to Thai policies and strategies, close to 100% of households have safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Another benefit of clean water and sanitation is that the infant mortality rate has decreased in Thailand. Thanks to improved water and sanitation, people are now less likely to contract a water-borne disease. The city of Bangkok has especially reaped some of the benefits from Thailand’s commitment to SDG 6. Clean and safe water is now so abundant that the average citizen in Bangkok consumes roughly 340.2 liters of water each day, which is more than the overall average of 277.6 liters.

Thanks to the Thai government’s commitment to improving water and sanitation, most of the people of the country are experiencing several benefits that go beyond simply quenching people’s thirst. However, the small number of people who still struggle with water and sanitation need prioritizing. Efficiently managing water and committing to achieving all of the SDG 6 indicators will ensure sustainable progression and development in Thailand.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Uganda
Water is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 40% of people experience water scarcity. The country of Uganda is no exception; 8 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here is what to know about the water crisis in Uganda.

The Current State

One in nine people worldwide has no safe alternative to contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades in Uganda has put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Approximately 19% of Ugandans only have access to streams, ponds and unprotected hand-dug wells as sources of drinking water.

Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. Additionally, the lack of adequate filtration systems and the loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, lead to various health problems. According to BioMed Central, 22% of deaths of Ugandan children under the age of 5 are a result of diarrhea.

The water crisis in Uganda also results in 32% of Ugandans having to travel more than 30 minutes to access safe drinking water. The excess time that people spend on water provision hinders their ability to work, maintain the household and take care of children.

Initiatives for a Better Future

Many initiatives are underway to address the water crisis in Uganda and the problems it has created. For example, in 2013, Water.org launched its WaterCredit solution, which has led to increased water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached more than 276,000 people and the organization and its partners have disbursed approximately $13 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.

Another program addressing the water crisis is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. More than 300 women in Gomba, Uganda, received training to build rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. The simple filter consists of layers of rock, sand and gravel that remove 99% of bacteria from water. Funded by Aveda and GreenGrants, this initiative conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation that support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safer from typhoid and diarrhea which would keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by approximately two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.

An additional project tackling the water crisis in Uganda is the result of a partnership between Generosity.org and the International Lifeline Fund (ILF). The project has three initiatives that include clean water projects, education on sanitation and hygiene practices and strengthening local health services in Northern Uganda. The goal is to improve conditions for approximately 10,000 people.

Looking Forward

Better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. In many countries, organizations such as UNICEF have made efforts to combat water issues. This is especially true in the fellow country of Liberia, where the organization strived to developed water, sanitation, and hygiene systems (WASH), with 65% of such machinations functionally today. The Ugandan government now aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030. Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructures, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities. Organizations like Water.org and ILF are helping realize this ambitious goal.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Access to Water and Sanitation
The U.S. investments that have been working toward improving access to water and sanitation have been particularly focussed on building a more water-secure world during the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the pandemic has affected the lives of billions all over the world and the most vulnerable in particular, already struggling with health and sanitation challenges. According to the OECD, before COVID-19, the African continent had already faced a slowdown in growth and poverty reduction. The organization added that “the current crisis could erase years of development gains.”

The pandemic could impact people already struggling with hunger and poverty. Several international organizations estimated that the number of starving people could have increased to 132 billion by the end of 2020.

To support countries struggling with water and sanitation access during the global pandemic, USAID re-configurated the priorities the Water for World Act of 2014 listed.

How does the global pandemic challenge water security and, in turn, how does USAID respond to these challenges? Before tackling these two questions, this article will give a brief background on the Water for World Act of 2014 and discuss its reconfiguration in light of the recent events regarding sanitation.

The 2014 Water for World Act and WASH Programs

The Water for World Act of 2014 is a reform bill that emerged from the 2005 Water for the Poor Act which made water, sanitation and hygiene – conveniently called WASH – top priorities in the federal foreign aid plan. In an attempt to make data more transparent, optimize aid strategies and improve water support, Congress voted for the Water for World Act in 2014. However, in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the need for global access to water and sanitation.

To address this concern, USAID re-designated 18 high-priority countries according to criteria such as lack of access to water, inadequate sanitation conditions and opportunities to make progress in these areas. Some of the high-priority countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Kenya and South Sudan. In doing so, USAID intended to leverage WASH programs and enable vulnerable populations to have continual access to clean water during this critical period.

Current Challenges to Water Security

Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right and the current pandemic underscored the emergency to settle this right in the most vulnerable countries. Populations receive daily reminders to wash their hands and keep a healthy diet to prevent the propagation of the virus and save lives. However, the lack of clean, drinkable water is not only amplifying the already precarious living conditions of vulnerable populations, but it is also making it harder for these countries to stop virus transmission.

COVID-19 tends to affect vulnerable populations the most: poor communities, minorities and people living in crowded areas. According to UN-Habitat, it is clear that the pandemic affects the world’s most vulnerable populations the hardest because they lack sustainable access to water and sanitation.

For instance, India is the second-leading country in the world for most cases of COVID-19. It had almost 11 million cases on February 21, 2021. This number directly links to the country’s crowded rural areas and the lack of access to running water. At the end of 2020, more than 21% of the Indian population showed evidence of exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees living in a refugee camp are crowded with a population density four to seven times more than New York City, putting them in high-risk situations.

How WASH Programs Help

WASH programs helped high-priority countries respond to the pandemic in 2020. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and the World Bank financed WASH campaigns to improve the population’s handwashing behaviors.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, they collaborated with the local authorities to improve access to water and sanitation in health care facilities. In Haiti, WASH services included purchasing chlorine to clean water and installing water supply in markets, health centers, orphanages and prisons. According to the World Bank report, ensuring that these countries have safe access to water and sanitation is a necessary medium-term response to the pandemic.

US Investments and Improving Access to Water and Sanitation

U.S. investments aim to provide financial support for water service providers. For instance, in June 2020, USAID partnered with UNICEF in Mozambique to provide subsidies covering the cost of private water providers.

USAID also financed programs that relay information about handwashing. In April 2020, U.S. investments financed radio campaigns in Burkina Faso promoting a new handwashing system expanding access to hygiene in more areas. Data has shown that these programs made a difference in terms of transmission. In fact, transmission levels went down in both Mozambique and Burkina Faso from June to December 2020.

USAID also focused on health care facilities and on supporting health care workers in priority countries by training and protecting them. WASH programs trained more than 16,000 workers in diverse locations such as Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. USAID support in Senegal was one of many successes: 447 officers and 549 health workers received training while the programs also resulted in the installation of 497 public handwashing stands in health facilities and high-risk places. They also distributed 2,423 handwashing kits to families with COVID-19.

Looking Ahead

Despite the crises of the past year, one can spot at least one positive outcome: global leaders have had to rethink access to water and sanitation. The pandemic increased global awareness about the importance of water and sanitation security, all over the world. U.S. investments to improve water and sanitation accessibility under the Water for World Act provide help during sanitary and water emergencies, even during these challenging times. The recent update about the high-priority status for designated countries is not the only positive news on the horizon. USAID administrator John Barsa has also signed the Sanitation and Water for all World Leaders call to action. His signature confirms what many have come to realize over the past year; international collaboration is key to fight the pandemic and secure better living conditions for all.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Alleviating Pakistan’s Water Crisis
Water is a necessity to any living being and yet some countries struggle immensely with it. One such country is Pakistan. Pakistan’s water crisis and sanitation issues have lasted more than 15 years. Pakistan has reached a level where it has less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per person and could potentially run out of water entirely within five years. Fortunately, there are several organizations that are working to solve Pakistan’s water crisis.

Change the World of One

Change the World of One has recently finished a campaign concerning the water crisis in Pakistan. Its effort, Pakistan Clean Water Project, identified water access and sanitation as the two biggest problems of the water crisis and aimed to lessen the water crisis by building water hand pumps and electric pumps in a rural village in Pakistan.

The project was a success with the installation of around 10 hand and electric pumps as well as two handwashing stations and latrines. While the work focused mostly on one village, one cannot ignore the outcome of the Pakistan Clean Water Project, especially considering what the project brought to light as possible.

Paani Project

Paani Project is one of the newest organizations working in Pakistan to address its water crisis. The project’s method centers around creating outside-of-the-box solutions to public health problems, donations and creating what they call a “movement.”

Donations and direct action are important for Paani Project as they are for any NGO. This is especially critical considering the costs of developing water pumps and systems. Paani Project recognizes that through their own actions, Pakistan’s water crisis can be tackled day by day.

Charity: Water

Charity: Water has recognized the link between poverty and a lack of clean water in many countries, including Pakistan. The organization is almost entirely transparent with its projects, donations and direct goal of providing clean drinking water on their company website. Its work in Pakistan has provided a significant number of people with water and essential resources. Since 2013, Charity: Water has funded approximately 320 projects and helped around 35,458 people by drilling wells.

USAID

USAID, an organization dedicated to giving aid to foreign countries, has a current four-year plan to aid Pakistan’s water crisis. The Sustainable Water Partnership works to establish water security in Pakistan, which will improve other aspects of life such as public health, economic gains and ecosystems.

This is not its only dive into tackling Pakistan’s water crisis. It also implemented the Pakistan Safe Drinking Water and Hygiene Promotion Project that ran for approximately four years to implement better management of water, improve hygiene and better the technical aspects of water treatment, all of which was able to cover 31 districts in Pakistan in the program’s first phase.

Alkhidmat Foundation

Alkhidmat Foundation is another organization that has found success in alleviating Pakistan’s water crisis. The organization has installed approximately 131 water filtration plants, 6,312 hand pumps, 1,846 water wells and around 930 submersible water pumps.

Giving to communities that are the most vulnerable is exactly how Alkhidmat Foundation has been successful. Many of these impoverished villages do not have the funding like in bigger cities, meaning these communities cannot afford water wells and pumps. The Alkhidmat Foundation has recognized this and is working tirelessly to bring more water to Pakistan.

While Pakistan’s water crisis continues well into the 21st century, these five organizations are doing their part to alleviate Pakistan’s water crisis and are moving one step closer to ending the global water crisis through direct feet-on-the-ground action, advocacy and awareness.

– Remy Desai-Patel
Photo: Flickr

Ganges RiverMore individuals depend on the Ganges River in India than there are people in the United States. More than 400 million people live at the basin of the Ganges, making it one of the most important natural water resources in the world. A holy river in the Hindu faith, the Ganges River (or Ganga) is used to bathe, cook, wash clothes, conduct funerals and more. Entire businesses along the basin depend on the river, adding an economic dependence to it as well. Due to this immense usage, pollution has run rampant. The Ganga Action Parivar estimates that “2.9 billion liters of wastewater from sewage, domestic and industrial sources are dumped” in the river every single day. Pollution reduction in the river is a top priority to prevent hundreds of millions of Indians from facing water insecurity.

The World Bank Assists

In 2011, the World Bank targeted the Ganges River pollution issues by launching the National Ganga River Basin Project (or NGRBP). A $1 billion initiative, the NGRBP looked to create bank investments in the water sanitation department and develop better waste management control in India. While this did prove to be a step in the right direction, the Ganges still saw a rise in pollution. India’s inability to properly dispose of waste outpaced the World Bank’s project. After nine years, the World Bank looked to bolster its contribution to the fight to save the Ganges as more and more Indians were becoming sick. In June 2020, the Second Ganga River Basin Project received approval from World Bank directors despite the bank focusing on COVID-19, proving how dire the situation at the basin truly is. An 18-year commitment, this second NGRBP adds another $380 million to clean up the Ganges until 2038.

Ganga Action Parivar’s Impact

Along with international help from the World Bank, India also made pollution control a national issue. An array of agencies have come about in India centered around the purification of the Ganges. For over a decade, the Ganga Action Parivar (GAP) has taken a diplomatic approach to fight water pollution. Through communication with government officials, media outlets and fundraising, the GAP looks to bring awareness to the issue and demand action from within India. In 2016, the GAP launched the National Ganga Rights Act and began asking for support for it. The act detailed how there are both natural environmental and human rights on the line with the continued pollution of the Ganges River. More than just a body of water, the Ganges is an epicenter of religion, prosperity and life. Creating a natural rights act helps to ensure that action will mobilize to protect the water resource and that is exactly what the GAP has set out to do.

The Year 2020 and Beyond

The year 2020 has been a promising year for pollution reduction in the Ganges River. The World Bank launched and financed its second project centered around cleaning the water back in June 2020. New research suggests that there has also been a natural cleansing that has taken place over the past few months. Since COVID-19 forced India to shut down, the Ganges’ usage has dropped. In a video released by BBC News, just a mere 10% drop in usage throughout the pandemic has led to significant improvement in the sanitation of the Ganges. For years now, India’s government has been trying to find ways to heal the Ganges. While India and the world fight the COVID-19 virus, the Ganges River is healing. Once the lockdown ends, the work of the World Bank and GAP will be vital to keep the momentum going. If pollution rates continue to climb, India will have a water crisis on its hands. Sanitizing and protecting the Ganges is instrumental in helping India reduce its poverty rates and preserving a crucial water resource.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr