Water is the panacea of life and also a gossamer that links growth of all living organisms. It plays a pivotal role in the growth of any economy hence some analysts predict that the third world war would be about water. The scarcity of this vital commodity affects more that 40% of the global population.
Most water scientists caution that Africa’s water supply is becoming more and more uncertain. They predict that by 2025 the results of population growth and climate change might result in half of all African countries experiencing “water stress”.
And, according to the World Bank, water-related disasters account for 70% of all death associated with natural disasters. The most important thing for all countries to embark on is to strengthen their integrated water resources management.
And, that is where the role of society, governments and experts alike play an important role in educating and involving the youth about this important phenomenon with the aim of preserving and managing our water resources.
As South Africa celebrates the Youth Month, albeit the Youth Day on June 16 of each year – the big question is: Is our youth taking up the challenge of involving themselves with water-saving and preservation activities?
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has implemented such water-awareness creation programmes such as the Baswa Le Meetse – Youth in Water – and the Youth Summit among others.
Baswa Le Meetse (Youth in Water) Award is a Ministerial Project under the curatorship of Director: Transformation, Mr Curtis Mavula Mabena – which was launched in 2003. It is one of the action projects of 2020 Vision for Water Education Programme (2020VFWEP). The awards aim to recognise the role of youth in education and awareness campaigns on integrated water management, sanitation, impact of invasive alien plants and health and hygiene promotion issues.
Baswa Le Meetse project targets grade six (6) learners, who convey sound messages on water use efficiency, water conservation, and water resources protection, impact of invasive alien plants and health and hygiene. They use art as a medium to communicate messages.
This is done through five different art forms such as drama, music, poetry, praise poetry and posters. Learners align their messages with the theme “Washing of hands, use and care of sanitation facilities for a healthy life.”
We are all aware that today, most countries are placing unprecedented pressure on water resources. South Africa is not immune to changing weather patterns (global warming phenomenon) and our water resources are fast diminishing or wasted. The global population is growing fast, and estimates show that with current practices, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030. Furthermore, chronic water scarcity, hydrological uncertainty, and extreme weather events (floods and droughts) are perceived as some of the biggest threats to global prosperity and stability. Acknowledgment of the role that water scarcity and drought are playing in aggravating fragility and conflict is increasing.
Baswa le Meetse competitions require a holistic and integrated approach. The key objective of the guideline document is to assist educators as they prepare learners for the district auditions, provincial and national competitions and national awards (to be held during the Youth Summit). The guideline serves as a frame of reference which guides the adjudication panels to ensure a fair selection of the winners and the implementing team to co-ordinate the project effectively.
Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 60% increase in agricultural production, (which consumes 70% of the resource today), and a 15% increase in water withdrawals. Besides this increasing demand, the resource is already scarce in many parts of the world. Estimates indicate that 40% of the world population lives in water scarce areas, and approximately ¼ of world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is exposed to this challenge. By 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity. Water security is a major – and often growing –challenge for many countries today.
The fragmentation of this resource also constrains water security. There are 276 trans-boundary basins, shared by 148 countries, which account for 60% of the global freshwater flow. Similarly, 300 aquifers systems are trans-boundary in nature, meaning 2 billion people worldwide are dependent on groundwater. The challenges of fragmentation are often replicated at the national scale, meaning cooperation in the form of involving the youth is needed to achieve optimal water resources management and development solutions for all riparian’s. To deal with these complex and interlinked water challenges, countries will need to improve the way they manage their water resources and associated services.
To strengthen water security against this backdrop of increasing demand, water scarcity, growing uncertainty, greater extremes, and fragmentation challenges, countries will need to invest in the youth to maximise the institutional strengthening, information management, and (natural and man-made) infrastructure development. Institutional tools such as legal and regulatory frameworks, water pricing, and incentives are needed to better allocate, regulate, and conserve water resources. Information systems are needed for resource monitoring, decision making under uncertainty, systems analyses, and hydro-meteorological forecast and warning.
Also, countries need investments in innovative technologies for enhancing productivity, conserving and protecting resources, recycling storm water and wastewater, and developing non-conventional water sources should be explored in addition to seeking opportunities for enhanced water storage, including aquifer recharge and recovery.
Ensuring the rapid dissemination and appropriate adaptation or application of these advances will be a key to strengthening global water security.
And, bringing the youth into the centre stage is the only solution. Train them while they are young to reap good rewards later.
They are the leaders of tomorrow.