“Water, water, everywhere, and not even a drop to drink” is a phrase adapted from Samuel Taylor’s 18th Century poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.
Though the thirsty sailor’s lament may perhaps only be an ubiquitous adage in western cultures, such a statement could as well have been prophetic when generalized to many populations around the world today.
The idea that our planet earth struggles to provide enough clean water for everyone, encapsulates a daily battle faced by huge numbers of individuals for our world’s most precious resource.
Every 22nd of March, the world celebrates International Water Day. Events are organized on or around this day to increase people’s awareness of the importance of water in environment, agriculture, health, energy, among others.
Rwanda joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Water two days earlier, last Friday on March 22.
World Water Day is a means of focusing on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Countries devote this day to implement United Nation’s recommendations through specific activities relating to this precious world’s resource.
In many parts of the world, getting enough fresh water to drink everyday may mean walking miles to fetch it which has a direct impact on the lives of the people.
As well for most people in Africa, water scarcity is not something new. Water issues directly affect hundreds of millions of people every day of their life.
Water is a finite resource that is fundamental to human health and well-being. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water is also an essential part of sustainable development for any country or region.
This resource has a role in strengthening the resilience of social, economic, and environmental systems in the face of rapid and unpredictable changes. It is a crucial factor in improving food security, health, nutrition and livelihoods.
Though water management has become challenging in various contexts and factors such as climate change, urbanization and lack of both physical availability of the resource and equitable access often impact the world.
As cities around the world, including Kigali, continue to grow by leaps and bounds, global water use is expected to increase by 55 per cent through 2050.
Consequently, water resources become the face of this growth which is very vital to ensuring sustainable development.
Since demand for water is constantly growing due to the increase in the global population, solutions for preserving water resources are one of the major challenges of the 21st Century.
It is noted that like any other part of the world, water resources in Rwanda face these growing challenges arising from pressures of rapidly changing demographic patterns, the demands of intensified socio-economic development, degradation resulting from unsustainable and inappropriate land use practices; and the uncertainties created by climate change, among others.
In Rwanda, a Master Plan for water resources by the Ministry of Natural Resources has been a key milestone in addressing these challenges with special handling plan and awareness of its importance.
The said blueprint will allow the country to meet the growing water demand amidst high population growth and climate change, to reverse and prevent land degradation and water pollution to avail enough water to multiple users and contribute finally to sustainable economic development for the current and future generations.
The assessment of water availability in Rwanda showed that Rwanda is endowed with substantial freshwater resources, with some variation both spatially and temporally.
However, according to experts, Rwanda uses less than 2 per cent of its available fresh water resources.
It is in this context that the master plan was adopted to address these challenges. The water resources master plan will ensure a proper water allocation in order to meet the various targets by water sectors that range from agriculture, energy, domestic water supply, tourism among others.
In addition, water resources are relied upon to meet many conflicting demands and play its full role in facilitating the achievement of the country’s Vision 2020 which is the country’s roadmap to socio-economic transformation.
Moreover, Rwanda is taking a number of concrete and measurable actions and working to reduce pollution, toxic and harmful substances, enhance monitoring and research for modern water conservation methods. These measures ensure that we all have access to clean, safe, reliable, secure and healthy water.
Sensitisation during this important celebration is necessary in order to not only conserve this precious resource but also ensure that communities share resources rather that compete for them.
Monitoring water sources for contamination is another area of focus, preservation and recycling of water ensures that at any time the cycle is complete.
These require efforts from households to industrial levels. Conserving, protecting and managing water resources will secure and enhance its availability for, and utility to the present and future generations.
The World Water Day is therefore, an opportunity for everyone to think about the essentials – preservation of water resources, services to access drinking water and sanitation and to identify best practices for the sustainable use of water.