World Water Day is held every year on March 22nd. It is a worldwide event intended to create awareness about the importance of freshwater and freshwater resources and sustainability. ‘With nearly half of the world’s workers employed in water-related sectors, sustainable access to safe water can change lives and livelihoods’, the United Nations today said, underscoring the link between water and jobs, this year’s theme for World Water Day. In 1992, the United Nations declared an international day to celebrate freshwater.
Each year World Water Day focuses on a specific aspect of freshwater. This year, in 2016, the theme for World Water Day is ‘Better Water, Better Jobs’. It’s focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that despite its paramount importance, water as a sector does not generally receive the attention it deserves.
“Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy,” the Secretary-General said, “an opportunity for everyone to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.”
Mr. Ban pointed out in his message that people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
“The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce,” he said, expressing concern in gaps in accessing water and sanitation between men and women, cities and countryside, and the rich and the poor.
He called for bold action to address water inequality, as parts of effort to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development whose Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
We don’t have to look any further than our own country to understand how sadly true Secretary General Ban K- moon’s statements are about inequality, poverty, gaps in health care systems, and access to potable, free flowing water.
“Children covered in sores and rashes in an Ontario First Nation are the face of a much broader health crisis faced by aboriginal communities across the country, said Charlie Angus, Timmins-James Bay MP & the NDP Indigenous Affairs Critic on Monday, March 21st,2016.
Angus joined ministerial officials and aboriginal leaders for a conference call Monday to discuss why some children in Kashechewan First Nation have developed unusual rashes and, in extreme causes, painful sores on their bodies. The call came after images of the children were shared widely on social media over the weekend.
In a news conference from Ottawa, Angus said “The pictures of those children were so shocking and so heartbreaking that it woke Canadians up across the country. They were saying ‘what the hell is happening in our country that children are getting sick like this?’ These children really are the face of a much larger systemic crisis that is facing northern First Nation communities.”
According to the Health Canada website ‘As of January 31, 2016, there were 135 Drinking Water Advisories in effect in 86 First Nation communities across Canada, excluding British Columbia.’ Many of the communities listed on the website, as being under a boiled water advisory go back to the early 2000’s with Shoal Lake listed as 1997. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca)
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the situation in Kashechewan, where images of children with horrendous lesions and sores were shared on social media, speaks to why northern Ontario First Nations leaders decided to declare a public health state of emergency last month. The Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Sioux Lookout Area Chiefs Committee on Health declared the public health and health emergency in Toronto on Feb. 24th,2016.
In a statement that echoes UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon’s declaration about World Water Day, Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said “We also need to look at the longer term; some of the determinants of health: housing, water, and education, everything else that contributes to the health and well-being of our families.”
The Council of Canadians is calling for citizens to take the ‘Tap Water Pledge’. It reads: I pledge to support publicly-owned and delivered water by drinking tap water instead of bottled water for the following reasons:
- Water is a human right and a public resource;
- Canada has one of the best public drinking water systems in the world and municipal tap water is safer, healthier and more regulated than bottled water;
- Bottled water requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport, and it takes three to five litres of water to produce a one litre plastic bottle of water;
- Bottled water companies use municipal water sources, groundwater and surface water, when over one-quarter of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages in recent years;
- Bottled water creates excessive amounts of physical waste when communities in Canada face a waste management crisis.
Take the Pledge here: http://canadians.org/tap-water-pledge
The Council of Canadians are currently engaged in a ‘#Pledge2ProtectWater’ Campaign.
Nokomis (Grandmother) Josephine Mandamin, from Thunder Bay, Ontario is a shining example of water champion. She recently received well deserved recognition for her tireless and inspirational work in water conservation. Josephine Mandamin inspired The Sacred Water Walk, and in 2015, she led a journey that began on June 23rd, 2015. It started from the land of the Wabanaki at Matane, Quebec and ended at Madeline Island in Wisconsin in September,2015. The mission of Sacred Water Walk 2015 was to raise awareness of oil spills on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River as well as train derailments that have had devastating consequences to fresh water systems.
Josephine was chosen as a recipient for the 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards. The Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards, administered by the Ontario Heritage Trust, are prestigious awards that recognize exceptional contributions to heritage conservation, environmental sustainability and biodiversity, and cultural and natural heritage.
‘Mandamin is one of the two founding Grandmothers who started Water Walks. She has performed these walks throughout Canada, Central America and the United States, and is one of three official Commissioners of the Anishinabek Women’s Water Commission who work to improve dialogue, communication and relations between the Anishinabek Nation (comprised of 39 First Nation communities), the Government of Canada, and interested businesses, organizations and individuals. Ms. Mandamin has brought together over 100 First Nation communities to sign the First Nations Great Lakes Water Accord and is a mentor for First Nations citizens and youth. Ms. Mandamin has walked more than 17,000 kilometers in the past five years.’ (heritagetrust.on.ca)
The water container that Karrie Oliver, a sacred water walker quenches a thirst with, holds the message. Nibi, Water is a Human Right. Leading & living by example, Karrie, and all of the sacred water walkers, inspired by Nokomis Josephine Mandamin, teach us well. We all have a sacred duty to protect and conserve that most essential element. Nibi. Water.
To learn more about World Water Day Canada:World Water Day Canada
The United Nations is HERE