The United Nations is marking World Water Day 2021 with a global, public conversation about how people value water for all its uses. Water is under extreme threat from a growing population, increasing demands of agriculture and industry, and the worsening impacts of climate change.
With economic development and a growing global population, agriculture and industry are getting thirstier and water-intensive energy generation is rising to meet demand, the UN warned ahead of the World Water Day, which will be observed on March 22. Climate change is making water more erratic and contributing to pollution.
The theme this year is how we value water beyond its price. It determines how it is managed and shared. The significance of water is interlinked between households, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment. If we overlook any of these values, we risk mismanaging this finite, irreplaceable resource, the UN said.
The campaign to share opinions launched the #Water2me hashtag. It highlights the critical value of water services – drinking water, sanitation and health services. Furthermore, it points out water, sanitation and hygiene – sometimes abbreviated as WASH, are often subsidized but that untargeted support can benefit people with existing water connections, rather than improving the situation for poor and underserved communities.
For the energy sector and other businesses, water-related threats such as water scarcity, flooding and climate change can push up costs and disrupt supply chains. On the other hand, corporate mismanagement of water can damage ecosystems and harm reputations and affect sales. With the development of small hydropower plant projects in the region covered by Balkan Green Energy News, the local population faces a lack of access to water as rivers are usually diverted into pipes and underground, which also hurts ecosystems.
Industrial pollution jeopardizes rivers in Serbia
There is also increasing danger from industrial pollution. In the Serbian city of Zrenjanin, which has already had unsafe water for two decades, Chinese company Linglong is building a tire factory. Local environmentalists claim the company is obtaining permits in breach of the law and that water resources would be strained further.
A domestic group called Pravo na vodu, said more than 650,000 people in the Vojvodina province, where Zrenjanin is located, are affected by the presence of arsenic in the water. The city has more than 120,000 inhabitants on its administrative territory.
Zrenjanin in Serbia has had unsafe water for two decades
Pravo na vodu, which means right to water, called on supporters to share pictures with messages about water and possibly next to water for the World Water Day. It also highlighted the push by the administration of the City of Belgrade to allow construction at the main water source – Makiško polje, and on the Great War Island.
Among other controversial projects in Serbia, Rio Tinto plans a lithium mine in Jadar area and China’s Zijin is expanding a copper mine near the Pek river, in which heavy pollution has just been registered after complaints from the local population.
Unsafe water is deadlier than bullets
There are 129 countries not on track to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030 and the current rate of progress must be doubled, the UN said. More than three billion people are at risk because of the lack of data on the health of their rivers, lakes and groundwater.
A lack of safe water is far deadlier for children than bullets and shrapnels in 16 conflict-affected countries, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said. Children under-five there are more than 20 times more likely to die from illnesses linked to unsafe water and bad sanitation than from conflict.
According to the report, 85,700 children under 15 die every year just from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, compared with 30,900 from conflict.
The UN is running a Water Action Decade through 2028. According to its data, 2.2 billion people, or one in three in total, live without access to safe water. Last year’s campaign slogan was Water and Climate Change.