Apart from air, nothing is more important to human beings than water and of course, without it there would be no food to feed ourselves, aside from being used to generate electricity, a central component that drives modern day economies. In fact, life revolves around water, and that is why it is aptly called life.
But sadly, finding clean, safe drinking water is more or less a luxury. In the developing economies for example, finding a reliable source of safe water is not only time consuming, but also expensive. Today, about 1 billion people in the developing world do not have access to potable water. Although, water remains the foundation of life, around the world many people still spend their entire day searching for it. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, valuable man-hours are wasted either in the search of or gathering water.
It is therefore heart-breaking to note that as important as water is to life, this commodity is not only getting scarcer in a great swathe of the globe, it is also for many, becoming unhygienic, thus adding to the growing health problems users are routinely confronted with. Nigeria and Africa in particular, are badly hit in this regard. Of the continent’s almost 783 million people, about 300 million of them do not have access to safe drinking water. In Nigeria, of the 170 million people, about 66 million do not have access to water, placing the country as third and fourth of countries around the world with large populations without access to improved water sources and sanitation respectively.
It is against this backdrop that we embrace the news that Nigeria is among 16 countries to benefit from a groundbreaking research on Emerging Pollutants in Wastewater Reuse. The project is a collaboration between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA.
The project titled, “Characterisation of pharmaceutical pollution in the aquatic environment of Nigeria and their potential ecotoxicological effects”, is being implemented by Lagos State University and involves a scientific study into pollution of the Lagos Lagoon. The project began in July 2015 and it is expected to end in the first quarter of 2016.
According to a research advisor at SIDA, Claire Lynga, the project is estimated to cost about $47 million over four years and that the issue of wastewater reuse is becoming a popular phenomenon globally and becomes a necessity that major research are carried out on the problems of pollution.
No doubt, the groundbreaking project according to the Programme Specialist, International Hydrological Programme of the organisation, Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa is aimed at supporting UNESCO member states to strengthen their scientific research and technical capacities to manage human health and environmental risks caused by new and emerging pollutants in developing countries. For instance, the Lagos Lagoon was identified as a major source of livelihood for thousands of fishermen, therefore, the pollution of the lagoon would have a negative impact on thousands of people who depended on it.
Besides these facts, painfully, Nigeria is among the five countries in the world contributing to about one-third of the global less than 5-year-old deaths. About 16 per cent of all deaths in the country are due to diarrhoea, a water-borne disease that afflicts mostly children. Others are the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Pakistan, China and India.
Worldwide, the disease kills about 1.8 million people, 1.6 million of them children. Other water-borne diseases creating havoc for the population around the globe include cholera, guinea worm, river blindness, shistosomiasis or bilharzias and typhoid fever, which affects about 12million people every year. On the whole, about half of the continent’s population suffer from at least one of these diseases each year, which greatly compound its growing diseases challenge and development needs, and this is unacceptable,
Without doubt, through cooperation and raising awareness about the water situation globally, remains fundamental to tackling these important human needs, especially, as according to Water for Africa, an organisation that is involved in providing long-term support for water projects in Africa, up to 60 per cent of water sources on the continent are falling into disrepair.
Indeed, at no time is the need for global cooperation and sustainable use of water more urgent than now. What with the rise in global population, especially in the developing countries, dwindling sources aided by advancing deserts and other climate changes. Today, the world requires more and more water to meet a growing plethora of needs. Unfortunately, it is getting scarcer and more unsuitable for most people.
Therefore, solving this long-standing water challenge, will no doubt need political will because water is critical to people and the environment. That political will means ramping up funding to the sector far beyond current levels.
Since water is that important to us, then it is high time we become more serious in searching, developing and expanding its sources to ensure that we do not run out of it and endanger our survival on earth.