Water and sustainable development

commentary 3Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economicdevelopment, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducingthe global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity ofpopulations. It is central to the production and preservation of a host of benefits andservices for people. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, servingas the crucial link between the climate system, human society and the environment.

Water is a finite and irreplaceable resource that is fundamental to human well-being.It is only renewable if well managed. Today, more than 1.7 billion people live in riverbasins where depletion through use exceeds natural recharge, a trend that will seetwo-thirds of the world’s population living in water-stressed countries by 2025. Watercan pose a serious challenge to sustainable development but managed efficiently andequitably, water can play a key enabling role in strengthening the resilience of social,economic and environmental systems in the light of rapid and unpredictable changes.

What is “sustainable development”?

Sustainable development was explicitly popularized and contextualized by theBrundtland Commission in the document “Our Common Future” where it wasdefined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromisingthe ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (UN, 1987). The BrundtlandCommission focused on three pillars of human well being: economic, socio-politicaland ecological/environmental conditions. The basic concept endorses putting in placestrong measures to spur economic and social development, particularly for peoplein developing countries, while ensuring that environmental integrity is sustained forfuture generations.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Water

As the time limit for the MDGs draws to a close in 2015, the global community is takingstock of how it can move towards a sustainable future. The MDG framework did notaddress the full water and development agenda, nor fully recognize its synergies withother areas and concerns. Emphasis on ‘Sustainability’ was not included and humanrights and inequalities were also largely ignored in the MDG framework. Subsequently,member states have agreed that human rights, equality and sustainability should formthe core of the development agenda and be recognized as critical for true development

Source: Water for Life 2005-2015




Current Issue: Africa Water & Sanitation & Hygiene March-April 2017 Vol.12 No.2