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The worth of water

Today,in commemoration of World Water Day,people all over the world are joining together to raise awareness about the importance of one of the most basic...

Today,in commemoration of World Water Day,people all over the world are joining together to raise awareness about the importance of one of the most basic and fundamental components of human life: water. Water is a precious resource,and a reliable supply of clean water is one of the key elements for a safe,secure and prosperous future for the people of our countries. Yet many are deprived access to this natural gift of life every day.

Throughout my travels in India,whether seeing the breathtaking beauty of the holy Ganges,or visiting a village water tank in Uttar Pradesh — without which families would be unable to irrigate their fields or adequately feed their families — I am constantly reminded of how lack of access to such a basic resource,one that so many of us take for granted,can have devastating effects. In Delhi,I have heard heartbreaking stories of young children suffering from life threatening diarrhoeal diseases because they only have access to contaminated water supplies. In Bihar,I learned about girls who were not able to take advantage of educational opportunities and a better future because their schools do not have adequate sanitation facilities.

It is estimated that throughout the world,1.5 million children die each year from preventable diarrhoeal diseases,most often related to conditions of poor hygiene,sanitation,and compromised water supply. Malnutrition can lead to further deaths; children cannot be adequately nourished if they suffer from chronic diarrhoea. More than 2.5 billion people,including almost 1 billion children,live in areas without basic sanitation. Every 20 seconds,a child dies as a result of poor sanitation and sadly,girls often have to drop out of school because of the lack of adequate facilities. In addition,without proper long-term water management,sufficient clean water will not be available to meet the agricultural needs of millions of people.

There is no doubt that basic sanitation and access to clean and reliable water are among the most important issues affecting human health and economic development across the world. I often recall what President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address: “Let clean water flow.” He was referring to the strong commitment the United States of America has to working with countries around the globe,including India,to ensure that people everywhere have access to clean and safe water.

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The United States is working in partnership with the government of India on a number of projects designed to improve access to clean water and sanitation,develop water resources for agriculture,and reduce child mortality and morbidity related to unsafe drinking water. One United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project works in conjunction with India’s Ministry of Urban Development and selected states and cities to improve delivery of urban services,with an emphasis on ensuring access to water and sanitation for the urban poor. Through this project,we have helped provide 1,35,000 Indians with increased access to a clean water supply,and nearly 4,00,000 with improved sanitation facilities.

Through our agriculture programme,we are working on developing public-private partnerships that introduce more efficient water use technologies and improve water resources management in the agricultural sector. To reduce the tragic incidence of child mortality related to contaminated water,we are working with both the commercial and public sectors on a diarrhoea reduction project that promotes affordable and simple products to disinfect water at the point-of-use.

To celebrate World Water Day,I am particularly excited to launch today a new American initiative,“Saathi Bachpan Ke” (Alliance for Healthy Childhood),in a low-income community in Delhi. As a father of four children,this initiative has particular relevance for me because it is specifically designed to improve the health of the youngest and most vulnerable children by reducing water-related diarrhoeal diseases. This alliance represents an exciting partnership of private,public,and non-governmental organisations working together to promote simple techniques that families everywhere can use to protect their children’s health. This initiative will help parents and children understand the importance of washing hands with soap; help in treating diarrhoea; and the adoption of simple drinking water purification methods to insure a safe and clean drinking supply.

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As Benjamin Franklin once noted with the wisdom,eloquence and brevity that made him one of our greatest statesmen,“When the well’s dry,we know the worth of water.” I hope that we can all benefit from the knowledge of water’s worth and value as we strive to ensure a safe and clean supply for our generation and those to come. I look forward to the great news of the people of our two countries working together in partnership to ensure that no child dies from a preventable water-related disease,that no girl fears going to school for lack of access to a separate toilet,that no family goes hungry because they can’t grow the food they need to survive,and that those who are most in need have access to water,that most precious element of life.

The writer is US ambassador to India

First published on: 22-03-2010 at 01:47:00 am
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