Poverty in Punjab
In August 2021, the World Bank announced that it would be working with the Indian government on a new $105 million program, entitled the Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project (PMSIP), to improve “urban services” in Punjab’s two largest cities, Amritsar and Ludhiana. As urbanization accelerates in these areas, issues such as access to water and proper infrastructure are becoming more significant to poverty in Punjab. This program aims to address those increasing problems in a way that reduces poverty and improves the livelihoods of the citizens of these cities.

Poverty in Punjab

The state of Punjab in India as a whole has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, with just about 8% of the population living below the poverty line.  However, economic growth in the last 15 years has slowed down, increasing by just 1% per year — well below the national average. It is also important to note that Punjab is the only state in India that has a higher urban poverty rate than rural poverty rate, highlighting the importance of focusing efforts on urban areas in Punjab. In Ludhiana, one of the cities targeted with the new program, the urban poverty rate is about twice the rural poverty rate. This is partially due to a lack of focus on manufacturing industries and the extremely high levels of “spatial inequality”– a high concentration of poverty in a few areas.

The Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project

The main focus of the Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project is the water supply and sanitation systems in Ludhiana and Amritsar. One of the main problems that increasing urbanization causes is the overuse of groundwater, which puts access to clean drinking water for the people of the city at risk. The two cities use bore wells to access groundwater but pumping the water out directly often causes wastage. Various substances also contaminate the water: arsenic in Amritsar’s groundwater and nitrates and other metals in Ludhiana’s groundwater.

This program aims to improve the water situation by building new water systems, treatment plants, transportation systems and more facilities to better supply water that is clean and accessible to everyone in the cities. It will specifically address water contamination by creating a central plant that will collect water from the surface, such as from canals, so people do not have to use the bore wells containing contaminated water. The World Bank predicts that all these adjustments will help more than 3 million people by 2025 by improving their health, sanitation and daily lives.

Addressing Several Problems Simultaneously

These improvements all lead to a lower risk of falling below the poverty line due to reduced disease spread and less money spent on clean water. The program will also help with the economy as industries and businesses will have a reliable source of water for production. Since growth in Punjab has slowed down in the last 15 years, boosting growth will help create new jobs, increase salaries and reduce poverty in Punjab.

The program will not just address water issues in Punjab but will also put forward solutions for other urban problems. Another main focus is infrastructure; waste and sewage management and public transportation are just a few of the specific problems that the program’s reforms are addressing. The problems of cities are often very different from those of the rural or suburban parts of the same region. This new program, which the World Bank led, aims to address urban-specific problems and both reduce poverty and improve the standards of living of the people of Ludhiana and Amritsar.

– Ritika Manathara
Photo: Flickr

Drinking Water From Thin Air
Aquaer is providing water to thousands of people in need. Clean water is a necessity but people in desert countries often consider it a luxury. In fact, according to the most recent data on access to clean water that the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF published in 2019, in 2017, more than 884 million people worldwide lacked access to safe drinking water. Luckily, an organization called Aquaer is working to create drinking water from thin air.

About Aquaer

The Spanish company Aquaer has developed a system to extract clean drinking water from thin air. Engineer Enrique Veiga and his father developed this revolutionary technology during a drought in Spain in the 1990s. Aquaer’s generators use electricity to cool air until it condenses into water — a condensation process often used in air conditioning units by utilizing heat exchangers. On the market since 2004, these machines can produce up to 5,000 liters of water a day.

What makes Aquaer’s machines revolutionary and distinguishes them from other water generators is their ability to operate in high temperatures. Aquaer’s machines can operate in temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels between 10% and 15%. Other water generators that use a similar technology can generally only run in low temperatures and high humidity areas.

Extreme Situations

Aquaer’s ability to function in a desert-like climate has allowed Veiga to provide water to villages that would otherwise not have access to potable water. The generators do not have negative environmental impacts and intend to work in extreme environments such as those of countries largely made up of deserts. Aquaer’s machines have filters to make sure the water is clean and drinkable. Filters can undergo cleaning several times until the filter needs a replacement.

Thanks to its research and development efforts, the Sevilla-based company can now reach more nations with water generators. The company now has desalination and purification plants, which eventually could undergo installation in dry places to improve the service speed and magnitude. In Aquaer’s attempt to minimize electricity costs, it is seeking to install solar panels everywhere it can.

Veiga’s water generators have been delivering clean water to refugees in Namibia and Lebanon during the last five years by working alongside Switzerland-based Vietnamese refugee, Nhat Vuong. A 500-liter Aquaer generator has undergone installation in a refugee camp near Tripoli in Lebanon since 2017.

Water as a Right

Access to water is a basic human right, and as people are experiencing extreme weather conditions throughout the world, water shortages impact many nations. According to the United Nations, “Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself.” Water is also essential “for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.”

Acknowledging the greater impact of water, Aquaer has an objective to not only deliver a simple device that meets its technical purpose but also design a device that is useful for those who have to walk many miles to search for water. The creation of drinking water from thin air should allow even the driest locations access to clean drinking water.

– Carolina Cadena
Photo: Flickr

New Chilean Constitution to Reduce Social InequalityThe 2019 sweeping protests in Chile may be leading to radical change in that country by 2022. The protests, which originated in Santiago and spread throughout the country, sought to end the vast social inequality throughout Chile. This led to the government’s October 2020 decision for a referendum to draft a new Chilean constitution. The old constitution had been in place since the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. According to protestors, that constitution gave far too many privileges to Chile’s private sector.

Chilean Constitutional Convention

The referendum saw overwhelming support for the new constitution with 78% of the country voting in favor. It also asked voters whom they wanted to write the constitution. Almost 80% voted to elect 100% of the delegates to draft the new Chilean constitution. This replaced the old system that appointed 50% of the delegates from Congress.

Overwhelmingly, the Chilean people elected independent and opposition candidates (48%) to write the new Chilean constitution. It is the first such convention in the world to stipulate parity between male and female members. It reserves 17 seats of the convention for members of indigenous groups, not even mentioned in the original Pinochet-era constitution.

Among these indigenous delegates is Elisa Loncon, a progressive academic. Delegates elected her as the leader of the constitutional convention. Her election signposts the strong possibility that the convention’s decisions, and thus the constitution, will be left-leaning. Born into poverty, Loncon has gained attention in academia with a Master’s degree and two PhDs.

Suggested Reforms of the New Constitution

Another woman elected to the convention is Carolina Vilches, a water rights activist. She believes that the privatization of water must end. The current constitution allows private companies to extract as much water from the land as they require. This creates desertification that makes agriculture difficult and forces many small farmers to emigrate to wetter land. Vilches’s presence in the constitutional convention suggests that private companies may lose their rights to do this.

Many commentators are also focusing on Chile’s unequal education system, which includes a large number of for-profit universities and their high costs for a bachelor’s degree. There are also severe and widespread teaching shortages. Expectations have determined that the constitutional convention will ban for-profit universities, which have been unpopular for years and only protected from the previous constitution banning them. Even so, a previous attempt to ban them in 2018 resulted in a narrow defeat with a six to four vote decision.

An Uncertain Future

The new Chilean constitution referendum will most certainly be contentious. According to a poll, half of the general population believes that there is a conflict between the rich and poor, but only a quarter of the economic elite hold the same views. If the private sector attempts to block certain reforms, many believe this will cause unrest similar to what occurred in 2019.

The convention’s outcome is uncertain as are the responses of the general population and the private sector. Regardless, the fact remains that Chile’s social inequality bears the strong possibility of radically reducing in the years to come with the new Chilean constitution.

Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

The Samburu ProjectThe Samburu are indigenous peoples located in Kenya and East Africa. The Samburu tribe is historically nomadic, traveling throughout the region to provide for its members. With close relations to the Maasai tribe, the Samburu tribe shares a similar language, both derived from the mother language Maa. The Samburu Project aims to provide clean water access to the Samburu people.

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights”

Kristen Kosinski founded The Samburu Project after a trip to Kenya in 2005. While meeting with female leaders in the region, Kosinski met Mariama Lekwale, known as “Mama Mussa,” a remarkable women’s rights activist and member of the Samburu tribe. Mama Mussa introduced Kosinski to many Samburu women, all of whom brought up the issue of water during shared conversations. Kosinski learned that water was the focal point of many of these women’s lives. It was the women’s responsibility to procure drinking water for the family, an extremely complicated task.

Safe drinking water was severely lacking in the region, with few available wells. The existing hand-dug wells faced contamination from waste products. Waterborne disease was rampant, causing illness and death across the region. As it is the women’s job to search for water, parents often pull daughters out of school to help with this arduous task, depriving young girls of their education. According to Water.org, globally, women and children “spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water.” This time could go toward more productive activities such as education and paid employment.

Impact in Numbers

Seeing how a lack of access to water disproportionately affects girls and women, Kosinski was inspired to work together with Mama Mussa to drill four new wells in the region before the year 2007. In 2007, Mama Mussa, unfortunately, passed away, however, her son Lucas Lekwale took over this incredible mission. Together, Lekwale and Kosinski committed to drilling an additional 75 wells in the region before the close of 2015. Since its start in 2005, The Samburu Project has built 126 wells in the region, providing more than 100,000 Kenyans with clean and safe drinking water. Over time, The Samburu Project gained many well-known partners such as Whole Foods, OPI, Chobani, Wells Fargo Advisors, Rotary International, Lyft and Forever 21, to name just a few.

The Far-reaching Impacts of Access to Water

According to the United Nations, water forms “the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself.” Furthermore, water is essential for eliminating diseases and “improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.” As such, The Samburu Project’s mission is an important one.

The Samburu Project’s mission is “to provide access to clean water and continue to support well communities with initiatives that promote health, education, women’s empowerment and general well-being.” Safe water has also played a significant part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the area. Reducing contamination and increasing access to hygiene practices like handwashing through “tippy tap” handwashing stations has dramatically reduced potential instances of infection and transmission in the region.

Eliminating the search for water gives women time to earn an income, lifting many out of poverty. It also gives young Kenyan girls time to focus on their education, with more than double the number of girls enrolled in school as a result of acquiring access to clean water. With accessible clean drinking water, health, hygiene and wellness improve and young girls can attend school instead of shouldering the burden of collecting water with their mothers. Furthermore, women can focus their energy on activities that empower them to rise out of poverty.

The Samburu Project has done incredible work in Kenya, ensuring that the fundamental right to water is upheld for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

Michelle M. Schwab
Photo: Flickr

Water SecurityThere are 326 million trillion gallons of water on planet earth. However, only 1% of that is clean and accessible. This means there is enough water for everyone on the planet and more. Nonetheless, 1 in 5 children still do not have basic water security.

Lack of Water Security Hurts the Poor Most

Globally, 80 countries harbor children living in regions considered to have low water security. The poorest children are the most likely to live in these regions. Of the top ten most affected countries, nine are in the poorest continent on earth: Africa. A staggering 58% of children in Eastern and Southern Africa face a difficult path to get water on a daily basis. In some regions, families have to travel for up to 30 minutes to get water at all. Consequently, the lack of water security increases the risk of dehydration and takes time away from families who could be working. The risk for water deprivation is also increased, which is lethal. Furthermore, impoverished children face another issue related to poor water security.

An Infectious Problem

In regions with poor water security, bacteria and viruses often contaminate the water. Water contamination leads to diarrheal illness, taking more children’s lives than many of the most common causes for death. It is the second leading cause of death for children worldwide. The illness causes the person affected to lose so much fluid that they die from dehydration. In total diarrheal infections take the lives of 525,000 children each year.

The Water Packet

Water security is a concerning problem that industry giant P&G has been tackling one liter at a time. In 2004, P&G initiated its Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, a revolutionary initiative based around a simple yet effective invention called a purifier of water packet. Created by company scientists, it has the ability to transform 10 liters of dirty water into crystal clear drinking water in thirty minutes. First, the four-gram packet is placed in dirty water and then the whole container is stirred thoroughly. During the stirring, any particles in the water group together into thick clusters. Then the stirring ceases and the particles are allowed time to settle at the bottom. Throughout the whole process, the packet disinfects the water from contaminants. Lastly, the water is run through a cloth which catches the remaining particles and all that is left is drinkable water.

Brittaney Stapleton, Volunteer Relations Coordinator at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden informed The Borgen Project about her time at a P&G event where she was shown a demonstration of the packet. She said that during the event the attendees were taken to a beautiful piece of land with a murky brown reservoir of water. “I wouldn’t have touched that water with a ten-foot pole,” she remembered. “So they opened the packet and I don’t remember exactly how long they had to do it but they just stirred with a big stick and after a period of time, the water was crystal clear. There was no debris. It was crystal clear and it looked like something you would see in a Brita filter. Just clear.”

Looking Towards the Future

Throughout the lifetime of the program, a total of 18 billion liters of water have been purified, with P&G planning on purifying billions more in the future.

Brittaney added that they geared the demonstration towards showing people how easy it is to change lives. “It made you feel that much better to know even if you could only give a little bit it’s making a huge impactful difference. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a millionaire, you can be just middle of the road and you can still help.”

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

poverty reduction in MalaysiaEstablished in 1963, Malaysia is a small country located in Southeast Asia. Since earning its independence, Malaysia has made considerable strides in working to reduce the national poverty rate, to the point where the country is expected to gain high-income status between 2024 and 2028. With the help of the United Nations and other organizations, poverty reduction in Malaysia is slowly reaching rural areas, which still remain disproportionally plagued by poverty.

A Flailing Poverty Line

Malaysia’s economic success cannot be explained without first noting the shift in an economic system previously dependent on agriculture to one built around commodity exportation. With about 40% of its labor force working in export activities, the country’s positive attitude toward trade and investment is responsible for the upwards trajectory in job growth and income expansion. Poverty reduction in Malaysia is apparent in its revision of the poverty line, increasing from $231.27 to $521.06 in 2019. That same year, however, rural households reported earning less than $2 per day.

Reports from government officials, which detail poverty reduction in Malaysia, ignore risks that many people face every day. The most impoverished 40% consist of rural villagers, migrant workers and refugees. These people are often left out of official poverty figures and lack a social safety net. Moreover, the dramatic economic growth seen in recent years is not accurately reflected in the poverty line, which is largely inconsistent with the current income levels of Malaysians. In his report, Professor Philip Alston explains that the impoverished have benefitted in gaining universal access to basic utilities. However, things like medical care and education are widely unattainable.

In areas such as Pulau Indah, an island not far from the capital Kuala Lumpur, many citizens live alongside heaps of garbage consisting of discarded plastic waste from Western countries. Here, sanitary living conditions are hard to come by. Education levels and medical needs prohibit people from building a life elsewhere. Most are even employed at illegal factories working to burn the waste that surrounds them. This leaves them in an inescapable cycle of poverty.

Villages Struggling to Stay Afloat

Problems are exacerbated in rural areas where the distance from hospitals, schools and jobs prevents residents from obtaining help. In water villages, which are clusters of homes sitting atop the water’s surface, the communities are subject to pollution and dangerous living conditions. While poverty reduction in Malaysia targets floating villages, providing them with basic necessities is still a hurdle. Access to clean water is a major problem as towns have no way of installing sewer systems. Even safe methods of electricity for heat or cooking are unaffordable. Thus, people resort to illegally extending power lines, risking engulfing entire villages into flames.

Casting a Safety Net

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is using an innovative strategy to aid poverty reduction in Malaysia. True to its mission of caring for the environment by improving people’s quality of life, UNEP sponsored a pilot project aimed at providing sewage treatment tanks to homes and schools in floating villages. This is major for a region like Sabah, which has 10,185 floating homes. These efforts are helping nearly 50,000 people gain access to sanitary living conditions. As part of a 36-month-long project, UNEP hopes to install 200 more treatment tanks in another village. Additionally, UNEP is encouraging the establishment of a facility where local people can work to produce the tanks themselves.

A business known as Hive Bulk Foods has also made considerable efforts at drawing attention to the waste issues in Malaysia and the impact of waste on impoverished communities. Founded by Claire Sancelot, The Hive encourages sustainable living and works with local farmers to source its ingredients. It operates as one of the only no-waste stores in Kuala Lumpur.

This push toward empowering rural communities to help eliminate poverty is apparent in the Malaysian government’s work as well. Legislation such as the 12th Malaysian Plan is based around promoting economic growth and poverty reform. Key policy measures that include providing help for undocumented citizens and re-evaluating the poverty line would ensure that poverty levels continue their downward trend for good.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

Water scarcity in EthiopiaEthiopia’s water supply is scarce — only 42% of the population has access to clean water. For those that don’t have access to clean water, women bear the brunt of the work to get it for their families. Therefore, water scarcity in Ethiopia is, though some might not realize it, a women’s issue.

While men work and try to earn money, mothers, wives, and young girls carry the water burden, both physically and metaphorically. These women walk long distances, often three hours or more to get clean water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and more. These long distances take away valuable time from these women’s lives. Mothers often have to bring their young children on these long journeys or risk leaving them by themselves. Instead of spending time taking care of their children or working, many take six to eight hours every day collecting water and returning home. As for young girls, many sacrifice their education to get water, causing their chances of escaping poverty to dwindle. Women also have to carry heavy jerry cans for long distances, which could lead to physical strain or other health issues.

The Economics of Water Scarcity in Ethiopia

Water scarcity in Ethiopia affects 61 million people who do not have access to safe water. Although the water that they have access to may not be safe, many Ethiopians have no choice but to pay for their dangerous water supply. Water from sources like unprotected ponds and shallow wells can cost some Ethiopians around 20% of their total income.

Since this water is not safe, many people also get sick from water-borne illnesses like cholera and diarrhea, which takes time, money and energy away from working or finding a way to earn money, catapulting Ethiopians further into poverty.

Organizations Helping Supply Water

There are several organizations with a mission to supply water to people in countries that face water scarcity, including Ethiopia. WaterAid UK is one of these organizations. The organization supplies areas with a scarce water supply, like remote villages, with access to clean water. For example, WaterAid UK installed a 400-meter pipe from a spring which pipes water down to the center of the village of Ferenji in Ethiopia. The organization has supplied 26.4 million people with clean water since its establishment in 1981.

Another organization bringing clean water to Ethiopia is charity:water. Founded in 2006, charity:water uses different methods including piped systems, hand-dug wells, drilled wells, gravity-fed systems, spring protections and latrines to provide Ethiopians with clean water. Their efforts so far have helped 3,025,007 Ethiopians gain access to safe water.

A Progressive Future

Water scarcity in Ethiopia proves to be a burden for women, causing them to sacrifice work, education, money and providing for their families. Many do not have a choice but to make the long treks to retrieve clean water, but several organizations use their resources and funds to build water sources for Ethiopians. These efforts will help lessen the water burden for women across Ethiopia and allow them to focus on progress for themselves and their families.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

Lesotho's water crisis
Lesotho gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966 and is one of Africa’s few remaining constitutional monarchies. Although Lesotho is one of the youngest and smallest countries in Africa, it has the second-highest adult HIV/AIDS rate in the world. Surrounded by South Africa and plagued by devastatingly high disease and poverty rates, Lesotho’s economic situation is unique. Water generates significant revenue and growth for the country, with the water industry responsible for roughly 8 to 10% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, the Highlands, a water-rich region in Lesotho, is susceptible to the uncertainties of climate change, leading to the beginning of Lesotho’s water crisis.

Lesotho’s Water Industry

The country’s access to abundant clean water led to the creation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), with the Highlands’ Orange-Senqu River Basin as the center of Lesotho’s water sector. Lesotho’s water industry now supplies various water-poor countries and regions within the southern tip of Africa.

Contributing more than 3% of the country’s GDP, the LHWP uses hydroelectric power to transfer water from Lesotho to the Gauteng region of South Africa, where water is even more scarce. However, while the water industry brings in revenue, it has also inadvertently created great scarcity for Lesotho’s rural citizens.

Water Scarcity in Lesotho

Lesotho’s water industry involves many trade-offs, including decreased water security for both urban and rural residents. Local communities lack the infrastructure needed to benefit from Lesotho’s water supply. As a result, citizens of Lesotho have limited access to a resource that is historically abundant in the region.

Aside from the inadequate domestic water supply, changes in climate will also affect the long-term sustainability of Lesotho’s water industry. The region has a history of high temperatures, inconsistent precipitation and detrimental droughts. For example, El Niño-induced droughts have created states of emergency that lasted for more than six months. Lesotho’s vulnerability to climate change makes long-term plans to maintain the water industry and improve domestic water access imperative.

Addressing Lesotho’s Water Crisis

Lesotho recognizes its water crisis and is working to reduce water insecurity throughout the country. Developing new sources of water and water treatment, advanced transfer methods and increased bulk resource storage are all tenets of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme (LLWSS). Following Phase I’s completion in 2003, LLWSS is currently completing Phase II of the program. This phase includes further social, developmental and environmental programs that aim to advance infrastructure, dams, tunnels and local hydropower.

The Metolong Dam and Water Supply Program (MDWSP) will likely benefit more than 400,000 citizens of Lesotho and increase the quantity of safe water while also strengthening the water industry. The Lowlands Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program is an extension of MDWSP focused on improving universal and sustainable access to clean water in Lesotho’s rural areas.

The three aforementioned programs are only a few of the ways Lesotho is addressing its water crisis. Water scarcity is a facet of poverty that many countries struggle to fight. Lesotho is working toward widespread access to clean water through long-term solutions while continuing to grow an important sector of its economy.

Annaclaire Acosta
Photo: Flickr

The Effects of WildfiresThe effects of wildfires are destructive, deadly and devastating. Additionally, they are becoming increasingly frequent. From the west coast of the United States to Australia and Russia, wildfires are spreading like never before, wreaking havoc and adding unparalleled burden to the countries’ poor.

The Effects of Wildfires

Wildfires burden society by depleting resources, burdening the economies and impacting citizens’ health. Wildfires force the evacuation of people and often destroy homes and valuables. The University of Oregon Scholars Bank states that a person needs an income of twice the poverty line to be fully capable of protecting oneself, family and assets from fires. Thus, these fires have a disproportionate effect on the poor.

Wildfires Cause Depletion of Resources

One way in which wildfires are destructive is the depletion of resources. The burning of forests destroys properties, trees, vegetation and wildlife. Wildfires often strip families of everything they own in a matter of minutes.

In addition, these fires deplete not only air quality but water quality as well. As wildfires burn, they contaminate the water in streams, lakes and reservoirs which limits access to clean water. Thus, the affected area’s drinking water and food supply are not usable. Limited food and water supplies make it harder for the poor to live.

Wildfires Cause a Decrease in Economic Stability

Wildfires take a large toll on an affected areas’ economic security by causing economies to close. As a result of closing the economy, tourism decreases. The effects of wildfires make areas untravellable as they pose a massive threat to people and destroy forests and hiking trails that often draw tourists. In addition, the economy slowed due to the destruction of resources.

This lack of tourism and loss of resources cause loss of income in affected economies. So, as income from tourism decreases, the number of available low-paying service industry jobs decreases as well. This causes those already living on or below the poverty line to face greater financial hardships as hours and jobs are limited. Furthermore, as fires destroy forests and trees, jobs in the logging or wood chipping industries run scarce.

Wildfires Cause Strain on Human Health

Furthermore, wildfires pose a great threat to human health as their smoke depletes air quality. This can result in reduced lung function, bronchitis, heart failure and asthma among other things. The effects of wildfires on mental and physical health are long-lasting. These effects on health disproportionately affect the poor as they often have limited access to affordable healthcare.

The Increase in Wildfires Worldwide

Wildfires know no bounds and have begun to spread with increased frequency to places that have little to no previous experience with them. Siberia, a tundra that has had limited prior experience with fires, is now struggling to put out a fire that has burned upwards of 6.5 million acres. 

Similarly, in 2020, Australia suffered devastating wildfires that burned 44.5 million acres and killed upwards of 30 people. It killed large amounts of wildlife and devastated their environment. Likewise, Australians are feeling the effects of wildfires in Australia today. The Australian government did little to curtail the devastation of wildfires which led to countless protests by citizens.

The Good News

The devastating effects of wildfires worldwide are far from gone. However, through the increase in aid and wildfire-related programs, the goal to limit drastic spreads and devastation is possible.

The United States developed many fire-related programs that created job opportunities focused on research, fighting and prevention methods and landscape rehabilitation. These programs aim to limit the level of devastation associated with wildfires. Additionally, the USAID also provided humanitarian support to Australia throughout its 2020 wildfires.

With increased research and fire-related programs in addition to global support during times of active burns, the devastating impacts of wildfires can reduce. Thus, they will lower the impacts on communities and preventing an increased burden on the poor.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in South AfricaLocated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa is home to about 58 million people. Although access to clean water has increased since the 1990s, South African government officials announced in 2018 that drastic conservation measures were essential to avoid shutting off Cape Town’s municipal water supply. Known as “Day Zero,” April 12 marked the day South Africa almost experienced the most significant water failure in history. Since the third anniversary of Day Zero recently passed, a closer look at the situation provides more insight into access to clean water in South Africa, with a specific focus on Cape Town.

5 Facts About Access to Clean Water in South Africa

  1. Limited access to clean water and basic sanitation. More than three million South Africans lack “access to a basic water supply” and more than 14 million South Africans lack “access to safe sanitation.” To address these concerns, the South African government is working to conserve wetlands and inform the public on the importance of water conservation for the future.
  2. Conserving water is key. To conserve water, Cape Town residents each survive on about 27 gallons per day. Residents adhere to water restrictions by using greywater to flush toilets and only using water for essential purposes. In comparison, a U.S. citizen typically uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day.
  3. The South African government’s plan to avoid future water deficits. In the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, the South African government lists strategies to avoid future water deficits, including “reducing water demand, protecting ecological infrastructure and managing effective water services.” The government is also working to pass legislation to help minimize the gap between water supply and demand. This is important because researchers predict this gap will reach 17% by 2030 if current levels of demand continue.
  4. The Constitution of South Africa guarantees access to water. The Constitution of South Africa states that everyone has the right to clean water and basic sanitation. Therefore, former South African President Thabo Mbeki established the Free Basic Water policy in 2000, directing city officials to provide low-income families with a sufficient amount of water at no extra cost. This policy ensures citizens living in poverty have access to clean water in South Africa.
  5. A call to action to avoid future droughts. Stanford University researchers conclude that “human-caused climate change” made Day Zero “five to six times more likely.” In other words, greenhouse gas emissions may impact the likelihood of water crises in years to come. For this reason, the South African government is promoting a culture of conservation to avoid future droughts and ensure citizens have continued access to clean water.

The Road Ahead

According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director Audrey Azoulay, “the fate of humans and water is inextricably linked.” Our reliance on clean water for survival is coupled with the need to actively maintain water supplies for drinking and sanitation purposes. Therefore, water must be conserved and protected to ensure another Day Zero water crisis does not occur in the future.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr