Majority of the world’s population faces freshwater shortage

UN 2023 Water Conference. PHOTO: @cleanganganmcg/twitter

Ahead of the United Nations (UN) 2023 Water Conference from March 22-24, 2023, in New York, organized by the United Nations General Assembly in collaboration with Netherlands and Tajikistan, a global survey revealed that 58 per cent of the global population is impacted by freshwater shortages due to deteriorating conditions resulting from climate change.

The survey, which was conducted by Circle of Blue, World Wide Fund for Nature, and GlobeScan during June – July, 2022, represented roughly 30,000 participants from 31 countries, including India. Some of the findings from India included were that 65 per cent of Indians said freshwater shortages are very serious; 42 per cent said they are “greatly” personally affected by water shortages; 22 per cent were impacted by drought and 40 per cent by flooding due to climate change; and 71 per cent said water pollution in rivers, lakes and oceans is a very serious issue.

“Some 70 percent of India’s rural households earn their living through agriculture, much of it irrigated, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Yet, with India’s water supplies imperiled by overuse, climate change and pollution, the country faces a transformative moment when perception and reality are aligning,” Managing Director at Circle of Blue, J. Carl Ganter told News India Times in an email.


The UN Water Conference, the first since 1977 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, hopes to gather international consensus for a “water secure world” with over 100 countries lagging in having “sustainably managed water resources by 2030” thereby posing a global threat to food security and the environment.

“With many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) off track, progress in implementation of Goal 6 (water and sanitation) is key to the achievement of other SDGs, particularly on health, food, gender equity, education, livelihoods, industry, climate and the environment,” said a background note from the UN Water Conference.

At the Conference, India will be hosting a number of side events in collaboration with other countries and world organizations. On March 22, India along with Ethiopia, UNICEF, World Bank, and World Health Organization are organizing a side event “WASH [Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene] as a driver of improved health,” with an objective to foster collaboration between WASH and the health sectors to ultimately improve outcomes.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga, on March 23, is hosting a panel discussion “Namami Gange – An integrated and holistic approach towards Conservation and Rejuvenation of River Ganga and it’s Ecosystem” at the Trusteeship Council Chamber. “India has put water amongst one of its top priorities, leading to many collaborative opportunities in this sector for improving water resources management and service delivery,” tweeted Namami Gange adding “The world’s fastest economy is also one of the world’s largest water sector market.”

On March 23, the Centre for Community Health Research in India along with its partnering organizations Malayala Manorama National Daily, and Fresh Water Action Network South Asia-Kerala from India, and others in Switzerland, Malaysia, and Bangladesh will discuss “Scaling up of Right to Children on WASH in Schools,” to focus on the Right to Children Act in India to ensure schools provide “safe drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls, and facilities for hygiene especially for girls.”

The Permanent Missions of India, South Africa, and Denmark will also host an event, “How International Water Management Partnerships Contribute to Sustainable Water Projects and Urban Solutions” to look at “concrete international and cross-sectoral partnerships on water.”

Underscoring the importance of this Conference, the India-2023 Water Conference Concept Paper said, “There is a direct relationship between water, sanitation and health. Consumption of unsafe drinking water, open disposal of human excreta, lack of personal and food hygiene have a direct bearing on the high infant mortality rate and are also the causes of a host of medical problems like Schistosomiasis, Dysentry, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria, Dengue fever and Trachoma.”

The paper emphasized that the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) contributes to SDG goal 6 “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water & sanitation for all…” noting “JJM aligns with SDGs, particularly on adequate quantity, sustainability, reliability, affordability, equity & inclusivity, and quality.”

It went on to state that, “India is likely to achieve this objective well ahead of the schedule date of 2030 for the countries around the globe and could become a model for the other developing countries which are working to meet the SDG targets.”

“Climate change is likely to exacerbate the pressure on India’s water resources, even as the frequency and intensity on floods and droughts in the country increases. This is also reflected in the findings of our survey where 51 per cent of Indians say they are “greatly” personally affected by climate change, Perrine Bouhana, Director at GlobeScan told News India Times.



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