World Water Day Reminds Us to Take Action on Climate Change
World Water Day was initiated on March 22, 1994, to draw attention to the plight of the world’s freshwater resources. Celebrated every year with a different focus, this year’s topic is Accelerating Change. This concept is meant to highlight the worsening nature of the climate catastrophe but also serves as a call to action.
Climate change affects water through flooding, both by land and by sea. Glaciers are melting, causing seawater to rise. Heavy storms such as Hurricanes Matthew and Grace level infrastructure and flood the streets with contaminants, including industrial waste, sewage, and debris. Hurricanes and monsoons, both distressingly common before the twenty-first century, have become much more prevalent. Stronger and slower, these monsters hover over land, delivering severe blows to local populations and economies.
The ecosystem of mountain ranges, such as those in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and even the American Pacific Northwest, are dependent on gradual runoff from established mountain glaciers. When those glaciers disappear, floodgates are released, causing water to pour down from mountaintops.
We saw this most dramatically in Pakistan in August of 2022, where an estimated 7,000 Himalayan glaciers melted to form a runoff that impacted the entire country. Pakistan is sometimes called the “third pole” because it has more glacial ice than any other country in the world. Super-powered monsoons combined with the release of water that had been frozen for millions of years, submerging nearly a third of the country.
Nearly 33 million people were affected, 27 thousand schools were destroyed, and 1.2 million livestock were killed. HHRD was on the front lines of the relief effort, providing food, shelter, and freshwater to a displaced population.
Climate change also affects water through drought. We see this in America most clearly at Lake Mead, Utah’s Great Salt Lake, and more than two hundred er-known bodies of water. These lakes are vanishing due to increased temperatures and decreased precipitation in the region. The same thing is happening across Africa. In East Africa, five successive failed rainy seasons ushered in the most severe drought in forty years.
In rural areas, crops withered, and livestock perished. Without livelihood or access to water, many people were forced to abandon their homes in search of charity. Estimates put the number of drought-related deaths last year at 2,500 in Uganda alone. HHRD’s Africa field office reported, "We have built shallow wells for communities with scarce water whereby people and livestock are able to access water without going long distances.”
HHRD strives to restore the natural balance and protect our water resources for years to come. We plant trees, host education sessions for wastewater management, and provide rainwater harvesting projects in some pilot countries. These are all eco-friendly ways to conserve existing water and drive down the level of carbon dioxide in the air. Visit this link for more information about HHRD’s efforts in providing and conserving water: https://www1.hhrd.org/Programs/Water-For-Life.
Written by Gretchen Elhassani.
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