Universal access to clean drinking water achievable

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pretoria - With the growing demand for fresh water around the world, the good news is that the South African government is on track to ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water by 2030, writes Nthambeleni Gabara.

Earlier this week, access to safe water and sanitation services were on top of the agenda at the inaugural High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) regional consultation meeting in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.

The HLPW was officially opened by Public Service and Administration Minister, Faith Muthambi, on behalf of her Cabinet colleague, Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane.

“Two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), along with a set of bold new Global Goals, which are hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.

The new framework, Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for SDGs is made up of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 13 years. It is aimed at building on the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000, rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

Addressing the HLPW’s consultation meeting comprising 11 sitting Heads of States, Minister Muthambi singled out South Africa as one of the few countries that have imbedded the right to water in its Constitution.

“South Africa is one of the few countries that have imbedded the right to water in its Constitution. The right to clean water is an obligation for government to ensure access at different levels of affordability and requirement that includes: indigent communities, rural and informal settlements, metropolitan municipalities; industry, mining and beverage companies, farming sector and other bulk water users.

“The HLPW is comprised of 11 sitting Heads of State and government to provide the leadership in terms of championing a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing, managing water resources as well as improving water and sanitation related services.”

Minister Muthambi said: “Today, the world’s freshwater systems are facing a growing crisis, these challenges are compounded by extreme events, droughts and floods.

“Demands are growing from a rising population. Water sources are threatened by overuse, pollution and climate change. Billions of people lack access to safe water and sanitation services. Water is essential for human health, food security, energy supplies, sustaining cities and the environment.

“Valuing water can help balance the multiple uses and services provided by water and inform decisions about allocating water across uses and services to maximise well-being.” The Minister said the HLPW is presenting a unique opportunity to meet all 17 of the SDGs.  

“Access to water services is necessary for equitable and inclusive human development. This is why the United Nations has recognised universal access to clean, safe drinking water and sanitation as a fundamental human right. Increasingly, countries and communities have also recognised the rights of nature.

“Effective water management presents a transformative opportunity to convert risk to resilience, poverty well-being, and degrading ecosystems to sustainable ones. This requires finding ways to collaborate across sectors, communities and nations to manage water more effectively.

“There is an urgent need for action at scale. We live in a time of tremendous change and innovation, opening a world of possibilities: ending poverty, managing risks, boosting shared prosperity, and underpinning ecological, economic and social well-being,” she said. While there is a growing scarcity of water, Minister Muthambi said protecting sources and controlling pollutants and other pressures are necessary for sustainable development.

She also vowed that South Africa is on track to achieve the landmark targets on water and sanitation as set out by the 2030 Agenda for SDGs.

This was also confirmed by World Bank Special advisor, Prof Patrick Verkooijen who said: “The consultation meeting is extra important because valuing water is key to achieving sustainable goals…most importantly, this inaugural HLPW consultation meeting in the SADC region will set the scene for all the regional consultations to follow in the coming months. 

"SDGs provide vision for the future…so global vision needs to be complemented and built on national plans of action, otherwise it is just a piece of paper without much relevance.”

According to Verkooijen, for South Africa to align with the National Development Plan (NDP) and the government’s strategic plan for the 2014-2019 electoral term-the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) is a right step towards achieving 2030 Agenda for SDGs.  

“We are hoping to launch the outcome documents or principles and actions of all their regional consultation meetings before the end of this year.

 “The alignment of global vision with national plans is critical as they live up to the international commitments. We are confident that South Africa is leading the way.” – SAnews.gov.za