Water, Sanitation Sectors' Climate Resilience Vital For Achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals


Water, Sanitation sectors' climate resilience vital for achieving UN sustainable development goals

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 3rd Mar, 2024) Ensuring that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and services are sustainable, safe and resilient to climate change impacts is critical for making communities in Pakistan climate-resilient. Thus, building climate resilience of the country’s WASH sector is vital to achieve other UN sustainable goals that include goal-3 (good health and well-being), goal-4 (quality education), goal-6 (clean water and sanitation), goal-8 (decent work and economic growth) and goal-13 (climate change), said Muhammad Saleem Shaikh, spokesperson of the Ministry of Climate Change and environmental Coordination.

However, “all-out efforts are being taken at all levels to make the country’s WASH-related facilities climate-resilient for achieving sustained delivery of the public service of safe water and sanitation, particularly during disaster situations”, he said.

The ministry official, who is also involved in advocacy and public sensitization programmes and activities for the climate-resilient WASH sector in Pakistan, said that the climate impacts were already being felt everywhere, more severely in resource-poor developing countries including Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. What is astonishing to note is that these devastating impacts were being felt through water in the shape of unpredictable rainfall patterns, glacial melting, shrinking ice sheets, rising sea levels, plunging groundwater resources, floods and droughts.In other situations, increased demand for water due to low rainfall could cause water sources (including boreholes and springs) to run dry. Conversely, heavy rainfall and flooding like recent urban flooding of flood-vulnerable Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi cities can damage water sources and sanitation facilities, carry runoff and waste into streams and lakes and contaminate the water supply, the climate change and environmental coordination ministry official added.

Muhammad Saleem emphasized, “Water scarcity through climate change and the consequent increase in the costs of water was prone to aggravate further issues of inequitable access to WASH-related public services, making people suffer from various negative health impacts. Because, this situation of water shortages and damages to the WASH infrastructure often deprives households of opportunities to collect the amount of safe water for drinking, meeting sanitation and hygiene needs for proper hand washing, and particularly limiting children’s ability to grow up healthy and strong. He said that addressing these challenges making the country's WASH sector climate-proof is a daunting task and calls for well-coordinated and unfailing concerted efforts by all relevant Federal and provincial stakeholders as well as those with expertise in the sector. Identifying climate threats to WASH infrastructure,services and communities is the foremost coping measure, the official added.“However, the ministry has already engaged and coordinating with these all stakeholders including Unicef, Wateraid-Pakistan and other non-governmental organisations not only to identify the risks posed to WASH services by climate change but also develop evidence-based solutions to deal with devastating impacts of climate change on the country’s WASH infrastructure, facilities.

So that services regarding water, sanitation and hygiene remain uninterrupted,” Saleem Shaikh told this scribe. 

Quoting from reports of Unicef, the ministry official said that around 450 million children live in areas marked as high or extremely high water vulnerability, where such a huge number of children do not have adequate water to meet their everyday needs for drinking,sanitation and hygiene. By 2040, almost 1 in 4 children would be living in areas of extremely high water stress, he added, quoting the figures from the reports.“Thus, when disasters hit, they candestroy or contaminate entire water supplies in these high or extremely high water vulnerability areas, aggravating further the risk of the water-borne diseases,mainly diarrhea, cholera and typhoid to which children are particularly vulnerable,” he told this scribe.

The spokesperson Saleem Shaikh highlighted that making water supply and sanitation systems that can withstand climate change impacts can help save lives of millions, particularly women, elderly people and children every year dyeing of various water-borne diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, E. Coli infection, malaria and dengue.

Talking about various policy implementation measures to address the climate change impacts on the country's water and sanitation infrastructure and facilities, the ministry official said that there are a variety of solutions being promoted and supported for their implementation in collaboration with provincial and local governments to mitigate climate-related risks to WASH systems. These included reviewing and altering the location or design of a water point or latrine (to make them flood- or cyclone-proof) or technology (deeper boreholes), or promoting renewable energy instead of diesel, he elaborated and said such changes were vital to ensure that the water point or the latrine continues to be functional and accessible for decades, even after extreme weather events.

He said that the climate change and environmental coordination ministry was very much aware of the fact that adapting to the effects of climate change on WASH sector and making it climate-resilient by introducing and implementing viable and result-oriented programmes and projects would help protect children’s health and save their lives.The official also said that efforts were also being taken by the ministry to priorities climate-related risks based on the assessment and identify technologies and infrastructures to improve climate resilience of the country’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, with major focus on coping measures for adopting water and sanitation safety plans for the country’s rural and urban areas, which grapple with 96 percent and 89percent shortages of safe water supplies, respectively.