World Water Day 2024

by | Mar 22, 2024

This blog post highlights the theme “Using Water for Peace” amid geopolitical tensions and emphasizes the need for action, including potential global plastic bans, to combat water pollution. Drawing examples from Uganda and Rwanda, it underscores the imperative of clean water as a basic human right and calls for collaborative efforts to safeguard water resources worldwide

The World Water Day has been observed since 1993, highlighting the plight of 2.2 billion people lacking access to clean water. The central focus on World Water Day is supporting the achievement of SDG 6: Water and Sanitation for All by 2030. This year, UN-Water, the UN’s coordination mechanism for water and sanitation, has designated the theme “Using Water for Peace.”

This theme is not surprising given current global political events: The Ukraine conflict, the Gaza Strip conflict, and the situation in Yemen. Humanitarian aid, including access to clean water, is crucial in these crises. Particularly in war, sanitary conditions deteriorate, and access to sanitation facilities and clean water becomes dire.

Global Plastic Ban - A Solution for Cleaner Water Worldwide?

On November 19, 2023, a journalist from the online magazine taz reported on a global plastic ban. The report highlighted a country emblematic of many in the Global South, where poverty and lack of clean drinking water due to inadequate wells or pipelines lead people to resort to the simplest and most affordable means – single-use plastic water bottles. Single-use plastic bottles, like all waste, end up everywhere except in an organized disposal system, perpetuating the cycle of pollution.

The Situation in Uganda

Uganda faces a problem with plastic in its streams and rivers, particularly during the rainy season. Plastic accumulates in rivers and streams, forming dams. This raises water levels, leading to flooding. People and animals die as a result, prompting the Uganda Environment Agency (Nema) to declare pollution of streams, rivers, and canals a risk.

A Pioneer in the Global South

One beacon of hope in the Global South is Rwanda, which has banned the import and production of single-use plastic since 2008. Manufacturers still producing single-use plastic must obtain special permission from the government and invest a portion of their profits into a fund for recycling projects. Rwanda, in addition to the ban, is interested in promoting new recycling methods.

Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have enacted similar laws. There are countries actively working to keep their water clean. Although single-use plastic bottles have been banned since 2007, this has also led to new criminal activity, such as smuggling networks clandestinely importing simple plastic bags into Uganda. Uganda lacks the capacity, structures, and power of environmental authorities to effectively enforce the law.

The Path to a Global Plastic Ban

A global plastic ban makes sense, but the structures to enforce this law must be strengthened to have a real impact. The proposal for a binding global plastic ban was discussed in November of last year in Nairobi by 175 countries, making it the second most important project after the Paris Agreement. Further negotiations on the global plastic ban will take place in April 2024.

Using Water for Peace

Water should unite people, not divide them, as it is essential for all. Water should not be privatized, polluted, or wasted. It is a public and societal interest to fight for clean water. Clean water and access to sanitation facilities are human rights. We should all take collective responsibility for defending this human right and align our lives accordingly. In a time when peace is no longer guaranteed, we should focus more on what unites us rather than what divides us. This opportunity is provided by World Water Day 2024.