“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink”
‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It can often seem to me that the issue is not a lack of water, it is usually there is some form. The issue is always about the accessibility of the water and whether the water that is available is in fact sanitary and safe to drink.
Filtration systems, one of which I carry with me, are commonly (thanks to access to finance) available to the ‘adventure traveller’ however they are only as good as the person using them and I have, in the past, been too convinced of my bombproof constitution (egotistical), been naive and altogether too haphazard (a combination heading for disaster if ever I saw it … see Sick) in this regard. I have seen first hand the impact of water borne viruses and protozoa. Have felt the havoc that they can do to a previously content digestive system. I can only shudder as I consider the impact on a child’s developing physiology and psychology with this sort of daily onslaught – a battle that becomes the norm and the impact of which is never questioned.
It constantly confounds, amazes and saddens me that in the 21st Century there are still people and places in the world without regular access to sanitary drinking water or failing that the means to make the available water safe. I have cycled in some of these places, places with access to streams or rivers or wells or old and often dysfunctional water dispensation systems. Places dependant on the weather for its regularity of access as well as its levels of problematic micro organisms. Places where people (predominantly women and children) spend an inordinate amount of time, often making several trips a day, walking to the common water point, filling containers of all shapes and sizes (often untenably large and surely difficult to carry) and then taking them back to their homes with incredible grace and dignity.
Unfortunately I have also seen these water points littered with the left over detritus from clothes being laundered and bodies being washed. Heads and Shoulders bottles, individual foil wrappings and washing powder packets spoiling idyllic waterfalls and bathing pools. There is no doubt that there is a need for environmental education and associated support services alongside the need for better access to good water.
I recently saw a sign outside The Hole in the Wall bar in Kathmandu …
In Wine there is Wisdom
In Beer there is Freedom
In Water there is Bacteria
Never a truer word said … on the last point at least, I thought to myself but why is this still the case?
1 person in every 10 … that’s approximately 663 million people … apparently still drinks ‘dirty’ water. Even to cynically adjust the figures down because of a misguided idea that aid agencies are ‘exaggerating’ the issue, the number of people that this issue impacts is incredible (as in “impossible to believe”).
In India I was stupid, unlucky and potentially could have avoided getting sick if I had afforded myself a greater level of care and protection by being more fastidious with my cleanliness, water filtration and where and what I ate and drank.
I am daily reminded of how lucky I am. I have the education and finance to be able to use fuel to boil water, purchase a filter (learn how to use it, buy replacement cartridges or top up its battery) or simply buy clean water should the situation necessitate it. This covers most of the situations I daily encounter. I can’t say privileged because why should access to clean water be a privilege. Surely we can all agree that it should be a universal right. In 2010 the United Nations declared it as such and went further by recognising that the impact of safe water and clean sanitation is ‘essential to the realisation’ of all other human rights.
As seems to be the case for lots of areas of social, physical or emotional ‘lack’, a gap is created between the level needed to meet the most basic, often physical, necessity and to fulfil the needs to meet basic levels of human dignity.
Why are we even contemplating a level below dignity?
And so …
You can then redeem the cost of the ‘book’ for a $30 donation to charity:water which will provide clean water to 1 person and in spite of the massive need in the world, 1 person is still 1 person, the importance of which cannot be forgotten in the midst of the statistics.
It has become a New York Times Bestseller and the reviews for the book consistently say that it’s a pretty good read about one man’s journey from a hedonistic life style as a top nightclub promoter to setting up charity:water as a major player in the non-profit charity sector.
Since it seems to be a good yarn for you and good drinking water for someone else that’s a Win: Win to my mind and a good reason to add it to your shopping list for that difficult to buy for second cousin or the “Dear Santa” wish list for you.