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World faces pressing need to protect water, Vatican official tells U.N.

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UNITED NATIONS — The right to clean water is a basic and pressing need for all people of the planet because without water “there is no life,” said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

A man bathes at a public well in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 22. (CNS photo/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

A man bathes at a public well in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 22. (CNS photo/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

Addressing a U.N. meeting on water-related issues under the world body’s sustainable development goals March 22, Archbishop Bernardito Auza called on all nations to recognize the responsibility to care for and share water because it is a life-sustaining resource.

The archbishop’s comments came as World Water Day was being observed. The day has been set aside by international agencies and governments to focus attention on the need for universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries. Events also focus on advocating for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

WaterAid, a London-based international organization that helps communities access clean water and proper hygiene, said about 633 million people, nearly 10 percent of the world’s population, cannot get the water they need. The group made the comments in a report released March 22.

Archbishop Auza said there is an urgent need to protect and care for the earth, particularly its water supplies.

“Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and a condition for sustainable development,” Archbishop Auza said. “Thus, it needs to be put front and center in public policy, in particular in programs to life people out of poverty.”

The U.N. nuncio said that competition for water can destabilize nations especially where aquatic resources cross national boundaries. He pointed to water experts and advocates who “ominously predict that the Third World War will be about water.”

Archbishop Auza also cited Pope Francis’ address to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which he visited in Rome in 2014, advising the staff that “water is not free” and that its protection is vital to prevent war.

“Thus, rather than causing conflict,” the archbishop continued, “the need for water sharing should be an opportunity for cross-border cooperation and greater efforts toward adopting binding instruments to ensure stable and predictable transnational relations.”

He said nongovernmental organizations, joined by each person, must “assume our responsibilities” to preserve clean water for present and future generations to preserve peace and ensure that the earth is “more habitable and fraternal place, where no one is left behind and all are able to eat, drink, live healthy lives and grow in accordance with their dignity.”

Archbishop Auza also noted that an all-day conference being held that day at the Vatican, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome. Titled “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” it drew about 400 policymakers, academics, business leaders and grass-roots advocates.

In a greeting to English speakers at his general audience, Pope Francis welcomed the participants, describing the conference as “yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance.”

 

More information about World Water Day is available online at www.worldwaterday.org.

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Viewpoint: Clean water is a necessity that millions of people don’t have

March 20th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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We turn on our facets and out comes water – clean, refreshing, plentiful, life-sustaining water. But we rarely give it a thought. We just tend to take for granted that it will always be there. We even forget to thank God, the well-spring of life.

But for 768 million fellow human beings, clean plentiful water is a distant dream, cites the United Nations. For them, the water they drink, cook with, and bath in, is polluted and often disease ridden, and must be carried long distances in many cases.

Kukama families prepare breakfast in the community of Dos de Mayo, Peru. Water, soil and sediments in the Amazon tributary contain heavy metals and other residue from more than four decades of oil production. In all 17 communities tested, the rivers, lakes or wells that provide drinking water were deemed unsafe. (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

According to figures released by the United Nations Children’s Fund in 2013, lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is a leading cause of death from diarrhea in children under five, amounting to approximately 1,400 children dying each day.

For those of us who have nice bathrooms, we simply flush the toilet, and that’s that. But according to the U.N. approximately 2.5 billion people do not have access to toilets or even latrines.

March 22 is World Water Day, a time dedicated by the United Nations to learn about the extreme importance of protecting this priceless gift from God and to motivate us to work for that day when every single person has access to adequate safe water and sanitation.

CRS helps

According to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, communities often use rivers as a drinking fountain, swimming pool, laundry and public toilet. Yet, every day, women fill old fuel cans with the contaminated water and take it back to their families. But with the help of kind-hearted donors families in an eastern Congo village are healthier  because they are now able to sanitize the water they collect.

You can contribute to water programs like the Congo village project by sending a check to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090 or you can donate online http://crs.org/donate/.

Also, please email and call your congressperson (Capital switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging him to co-sponsor the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act 2013 (H.R. 2901).

According to CRS, this legislation is designed to help ensure that many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable human beings receive the clean water they need in a sustainable, equitable and conflict-free way.

Since there is no similar bill in the Senate, it would be helpful to contact your two U.S. senators asking them to introduce a companion bill to H.R. 2901.

While the U.S. is by some standards the richest nation on earth, there are many of its residents who lack easily accessible clean water and sanitation.

I once worked at a parish in western Maryland, part of Appalachia, where I became familiar with people who lived in shacks with no indoor plumbing. They would have to haul water from mountain springs. And some folks did not even have outhouses.

To provide help in your area, consider connecting with Habitat for Humanity www.habitat.org.

A little reminder: During Lent we are called to improve our prayer life, fasting and almsgiving.

If we pray, fast, give and work to ensure that everyone has access to adequate safe water and sanitation, when we stand before the Lord Jesus we will rejoice in hearing him say to us, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink. … Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

 

Tony Magliano is a syndicated columnist who lives in the Diocese of Wilmington.

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