Water and Personal Security

Before the Bangkok Flood of 2011, I did not realize that the rising flood water could force me to look seriously at the clean water supply and the scarcity of drinking water problems. I often take it for granted that water will always be there, available for me to use whenever I want. During the period of flood in the city, dirty flood water got mix-up with the municipality’s canal system which provide clean water for most households use. We were warned by the government not to use contaminated water for cooking and drinking. I had to go to the neighborhood store to buy bottled-drinking water, but I found out that the shelfs were all emptied. People began to stockpile cases of bottled-water at the first warning of flood. I was too late, and ended-up having to buy several bottles of soda water and beer to drink instead. Hard to believe that this could happen in the capital city of Thailand when we used to have plenty of water from the rain six month yearly. I never thought that it could happen to me when I came from New York to visit my ailing mother. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. Luckily the major part of that flood did not reach Sukhumvit areas where my mother lives. So I survived the crisis. But I know that many people in other flooding areas had suffered a lot. No one can survive without clean drinking for a day. And the Thai government emergency water distribution did not reach people fast enough. The experience have made me pay a particular attention to all discussions on the subject relating to clean water. The dialogues among government officials and water experts at the 2nd Asian and Pacific Water Summit held last month in Chiangmai provided valuable information on the problems of water resources management, and the distribution of drinking water when disaster hit. Asia and Pacific leaders came together to share their country’s experiences and to set a new policy on the establishment of water information system. They also focused on the inter-connectedness of clean water supply, food security, and sanitation, especially when a disaster strikes. Water availability at community level is most important for the survival of people, especially those who live in urban areas. In Thailand, we used to store rain water in earth jars or aluminium tanks for household use, but people don’t do that any more. They all rely on water coming out of the government water-pipe. I am glad that leaders in the Asia and Pacific region were aware of this problem. They unanimously agreed on the Chiangmai Declaration committed to promote efficient use of water resources, reduce water pollution, improve water quality, and protect sources of fresh water. The urban water security was included in the effort to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of universal access to water and sanitation by 2025. With climate change that we are facing today, nobody can wait that long. Scarcity of drinking water is a survival issues for most of us right now. For me, it is personal security and human rights issues.

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