Access to water was established as a fundamental human right by the United Nations in July, 2010. It is something that should not be an uncertainty in everyday life; however, currently more than 780 million, 11% of the global population is without access to clean, safe, water. Access to clean water cannot be isolated from sanitation of water. The two are seen hand in hand, and while access to water is crucial, it is not nearly as crucial as access to clean water.Poor quality and lack of access to water can cause disease, which is the leading cause of death in young children with over 800 deaths everyday due to diarrheal illness, and is fueling gender inequality in nations where water must be fetched, as fetching water is a task that is often performed by young women. As global population continues to increase, the need to access clean water also increases. Access to water is a problem that is most predominant in poor nations and LDCs, however the discrepancies within countries in regard to access to water is equally as concerning. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is working to increase international access to water, seeing that if access to water continues to worsen, millions of people internationally will die due to preventable causes. In 2015, the United Nations established a list of 17 goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals, this set of goals addresses access to water in goal 6. Goal 6 directly aims to achieve “universal and equitable access to safe water” by 2030. In addition to the SDGs, the UN has held numerous international conferences regarding water and sanitation, and helped approximately 1.3 billion people gain access to water during the “Water for Life” International Decade for Action from 2005-2015.
Japan has taken many steps in the right direction regarding access to water. To date, 95% of Japanese people have access to water, and 97% of the population has access to piped water. Japan is one of only 15 countries with “potable” tap water, which undergoes strict quality control tests to ensure it safe to drink. This is not to say that Japan has never experienced water shortages; in the years 1939, 1964, 1967, and 1994, Japan faced water shortages so severe that 16 million people were affected at least once. In 1957, Japan enacted the “Waterworks Act”, which aims to supply clean, and inexpensive water as a way to improve public health and living environments. In addition to this, Japan has two “Water Supply Visions”, one enacted in 2004, and one in 2013. These “Visions” aim to sustainably supply a continuous amount of clean water to anyone, anywhere, with reasonable costs. In Tokyo, rainwater in harvested to increase access to water domestically. This is a recent phenomena in Tokyo, and research is still being done as to how harvesting water from rainfall can increase access to water in the rest of Japan, as well as internationally.
In order to improve international access to water, action must be taken on a domestic level, as well as at an international level. The delegation of Japan believes that there are solutions that can help address this issue on a smaller level, as well as more complex solutions, relating to infrastructure and sanitation. Japan would like to propose actions that can be taken on a domestic level. First, Japan believes that we must take advantage of natural sources of water, such as rain water, and groundwater. By implementing systems that harvest rainwater and groundwater, similar to systems in Tokyo, access to water can be improved. Inorder to assure that the water harvested from the rain and the ground is clean, Japan believes that home water-treatment, and low-cost options must be provided. This includes: water filters, solar disinfection agents, flocculants, chlorine/iodine tablets, and plastic water bottles that can be exposed to sunlight. By providing these options, people have the opportunity to filter the collected water so that it is clean enough to drink. Second, Japan believes that in order to ensure the long term success of said systems, nations must monitor them on a yearly basis. They must be monitored on success rate, efficiency, sustainability, and most importantly, use. By doing this, will information about the systems be up to date, but feedback will be received, as well as information on how to improve them to ensure future usage. Finally, Japan believes that infrastructure must be updated. In many countries, infrastructure is too old to work successfully, where up to half of the water can be lost due to faulty or outdated systems. The delegation of Japan is looking forward to collaborating with other nations to come up with successful solutions that will improve international access to water.
- Sydney Levy