Context: The United Nations Water Conference 2023 was the first such meeting in 46 years. In a report titled Water for Sustainable Development 2018–2028, the UN recognized the urgent need for action as we are not on the right track to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Goals for Development (SDG) for water. I ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Target 6.5 of SDG 6 focuses on the implementation of integrated water resource management (IWRM) at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation.
The last UN Water Conference was held in 1977, and it resulted in the first Global Action Plan recognizing that all people of different stages of development and social and economic conditions have the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs.
Outcomes of the conference: The central outcome of the conference was the International Water Action Agenda, to which governments, multilateral institutions, businesses, and NGOs submitted around 713 voluntary commitments. These commitments are voluntary and legally non-binding. These are-
- A $50 billion commitment from India to improve rural drinking water services under the Jal Jeevan Mission
- Commitment to specific innovations in wastewater treatment or solar treatment of water in remote areas, and the need for incubation platforms focusing on water management.
- We need a large amount of input data, and cost-effective approaches to data generation including sensors and satellite data (the World Meteorological Organization’s Hydrological Status and Outlook System, offered data analysis tools).
- Knowledge sharing: There is a need for cross-learning. The W12+ Blueprint is a UNESCO platform that hosts city profiles and case studies of programs, technologies, and policies that address common water security challenges.
- Capacity building: An effort is known as Making Rights Real offered to help marginalized communities and women understand how to exercise their rights.
- The Water for Women Fund offered mechanisms for more effective and sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene outcomes for women.
India at the conference: India’s commitments
- 240 billion dollars of investment in the water sector and efforts to restore groundwater (As per CAG’s report, groundwater extraction in India has increased over the last decade.
- The revised Groundwater Bill 2017 vests state groundwater boards with creating laws, managing water allocation, etc.
- Many drinking water projects have failed because they drew too much groundwater or the water source was contaminated, leaving communities with no access to water.
- Agricultural pumping leads to groundwater over-abstraction.
- According to this conference, a big barrier to farmers and industries using water more efficiently is that they have no incentive.
- Voluntary commitments raise difficult issues of accountability. There is a challenge in monitoring compliance.