Key Takeaways from UN World Water Conference

Key Takeaways from UN World Water Conference

News: Recently, the United Nations held its first water conference in 46 years on March 22-24 in New York.

 The U.N. recognized that we are not doing enough to meet SDG 6, which aims to provide clean water and sanitation for everyone by 2030.
 The UN 2023 Water Conference's theme, 'Our watershed moment: uniting the world for water,' aimed to support the achievement of water-related global goals and objectives, including those enumerated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

About UN Water Conference on freshwater:
 It was held in the context of serious environmental issues — flooding, drought, severity of climate change and a looming food crisis.
 The conference marked a mid-term review of the Water Action Decade 2018-2028
 Advance the water agenda by energizing existing programmes and projects
 Inspiring water action to achieve the 2030 Agenda, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), which envisages the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Key outcomes of conference:
 The central outcome of the conference was the international Water Action Agenda, to which governments, multilateral institutions, businesses, and non-governmental organizations submitted over 670 commitments to address water security issues.
 Nearly 164 governments and 75 multilateral organizations have made commitments.
 The commitments embodied in the Water Action Agenda are voluntary and, therefore, legally non-binding. However, the voluntary commitments are expected to inspire the collective political will, which is needed to address the many water challenges.
 There were specific innovations in wastewater treatment or solar treatment of water in remote areas, and several proposals for incubation platforms, including the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, focused on water management.
 A potential useful tool to address water issues was the W12+ Blueprint, a UNESCO platform that hosts city profiles and case studies of programs, technologies, and policies that address common water security challenges.
 The conference highlighted that the lack of incentives is a major hindrance for farmers and industries to use water efficiently and sustainably. The integration of environmental, social, and corporate governance into the Water Action Agenda is a positive step towards effective water governance.

Challenges that need to be addressed:
 According to The World Resources Institute (WRI the commitments made by the states reflected scope and ambition but it lacked proper finance and targets that are quantifiable in nature.
 There are serious limitations in our knowledge about the volume, flux and quality of water in lakes, rivers, soils and aquifers.
 There are huge gaps in water usage data. The metering of water has triggered resistance from India to Ireland because of concerns about equitable access and affordability of water services’.
 Funding from regional, national, and international sources prioritizes new water infrastructure rather than on water maintenance services (World Bank study). It results in decreased service for water customers.
 The World Bank estimates project recurring operations and maintenance service (WASH) costs to rise from about $4 billion to over $30 billion per year by 2030, which is far more than the capital costs for basic WASH services.
 Water does not qualify to be a global public goods as it is not considered to be an area of urgent funding as compared to climate change.

What was India’s commitment at conference?
 An investment of $240 billion in the water sector and efforts to restore groundwater level.
Importance of Groundwater in India:
 Groundwater is the backbone of India’s agriculture and drinking water security in rural and urban areas. It meets nearly 80% of the country’s drinking water and two-thirds of its irrigation needs.
 According to CAG report (2021) the groundwater extraction in India increased from 58% to 63% between 2004-17. This has further increased due climate change resulting in intermittent rainfall, which further undermines the recharge potential.
 The revised Groundwater Bill 2017 vests State groundwater boards with creating laws, managing water allocation and other relevant issues. 

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