From the vast oceans and rivers around the world to the organs and cells in our bodies, water connects us all. Access to safe and drinkable water is a basic and universal human right. Though it is indispensable for life and our inherent dignity (Laudato Si’ 28-30), we continue to experience many challenges regarding this precious resource, mainly through human action, climate change, and population growth.
Such challenges remind us of the responsibility we share in caring for Creation and call us to discern more deeply and remind us of the need to act together more urgently.
This year’s World Water Day theme is Leaving no one behind, adapting the central premise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that “as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.”
Water is a human right and is not only an essential element for our bodies to function but is integral to human dignity and life. Ecojesuit encourages everyone to observe World Water Day on 22 March and take part in its Action for Water.
Day Zero in Cape Town, South Africa drew international news attention last year as the city faced the prospect of dry taps, the first major city in modern times to run out of drinking water. As shared in a brief video of Cape Town’s water crisis by the Pulitzer Center, “the timeline of this water crisis extends years back” and the threat of Day Zero continues.
Environmental injustice and bad decisions led to the water disaster in Flint, Michigan, USA that left tens of thousands of children sick or dying due to lead-contaminated water, as presented in a summary of key events by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Farmers in India continue to suffer from extended periods of extreme drought and climate change has been attributed to almost 60,000 suicides of farmers and farm workers in the last three decades, according to a 2017 University of California-Berkeley study.
Last year, the BBC compiled a list of 11 cities most likely to run out of water based on UN documents: São Paolo, Brazil; Bangalore, India; Beijing, China; Cairo, Egypt; Jakarta, Indonesia; Moscow, Russia; Istanbul, Turkey; Mexico City, Mexico; London, UK; Tokyo, Japan; and Miami, Florida, USA.
To accelerate efforts in meeting water-related challenges, the UN General Assembly declared 2018-2028 as the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development. Objectives of this declaration focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources to achieve social, economic, and environmental outcomes and promote partnerships and cooperation to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, especially those in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
These are elements of discernment for all, and as Jesuits and Jesuit partners and institutions, the call for depth as we respond to water-related concerns echoes directly to our mission as articulated in the Universal Apostolic Preferences, especially in the care for our Common Home and in walking with the excluded
By discerning what water means to us and sharing with others what we can do to care and defend this precious resource, we can move forward and take actions to ensure water for all.
“In any discussion about a proposed venture, a number of questions need to be asked in order to discern whether or not it will contribute to genuine integral development. What will it accomplish? Why? Where? When? How? For whom? What are the risks? What are the costs? Who will pay those costs and how? In this discernment, some questions must have higher priority. For example, we know that water is a scarce and indispensable resource and a fundamental right which conditions the exercise of other human rights. This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” (Laudato Si’ 185)