Access to Clean Drinking Water and Sanitation

Sanitation and access to clean drinking water are very much intertwined with each other. For example, if we look into the case of India whose water crisis has rapidly worsened throughout the years, the path that the Philippines right now is taking is much similar to what has been happening in India. It is a country where open defecation is rampant and where dead bodies are often disposed in rivers, there is really no question how their water crisis began.

Now, going back to our country, according to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), it was found out that 7.1 million Filipinos still resort to open defecation, which is defined by the report “as when human feces are disposed of in fields, forest, bushes, and bodies of water or other open spaces.” These human wastes are then carried onto rivers, and other bodies of water. [1]

1Figure 1: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/un-vows-to-eliminate-open-defecation-by-2025

Another report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that 58% of unsanitary septic tanks lead to groundwater contamination. The WHO-UN report also added that 2.3 million Filipinos use untreated surface water from rivers, and canals. Another 6.1 million utilize water from unprotected dug wells. Furthermore, the National Nutritional Survey in 2011 found out that half of Filipino households did not even try to make their water safe. [2]

2Figure 2: http://www.rappler.com/nation/41050-sewage-problem-denr

We now see how the lack of sanitation leads to pollution of water sources and to an even bigger problem in public health. When a community disposes their human wastes into a creek and gets drinking water from wells near the creek, the residents will probably get diseases from the contaminated water. This is what happened to Annie and her neighbors during the aftermath of Ondoy [2]. Their children contracted diarrhea after drinking contaminated groundwater, which is the second leading cause of death in the country, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

3Figure 3: http://www.rappler.com/nation/41050-sewage-problem-denr

Aside from public health matters, the poor sanitation and sewerage system in the country also amounts to a Php 78 billion loss each year. The majority of the costs go to “health care, loss of income associated with the disease and the value associated with premature loss of life [3].”

The figure below shows the summary of the condition of sewerage and drinking water in the Philippines.

4    Figure 4:  http://www.unwater.org/fileadmin/user_upload/unwater_new/docs/Publications/PHL_pagebypage.pdf

Set a goal that should be achieved by our country:

Since the main root of the problem is from poor sanitation, we have to

Make it SAFE and AFFORDABLE:

  • Increase the number of households and establishments connected to sewer lines. From 10% of the population, increase to 80% by 2022.
  • 100% of newly built establishments and subdivisions must have proper sewerage systems, with the government having a hand in the subsidy for these public projects.

Make it ACCESSIBLE and SUFFICIENT:

  • Increase the number of water supply systems by increasing budget allotted to water supply. We have to create a larger network of water supply lines, enough to cover remote barangays inside and outside the Metro, especially to the slums in the Metro where majority of the pollution comes from.
  • The remaining 16% of Filipino households with no access to clean and potable water (National Statistical Coordination Board) must be addressed within six years, that is the location of the water source should be made at most 1000 meters from the household and time needed to collect not exceed 30 minutes. [4]

We just hope that six years is long enough for the new administration to solve the country’s most critical problem related to water.

 

Sources:

[1] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/702546/millions-in-ph-dont-have-access-to-clean-water-toilets-report

[2] http://www.rappler.com/nation/41050-sewage-problem-denr

[3] http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPHILIPPINES/Resources/EconomicImpactsofSanitationinthePhils_Summary.pdf

[4] http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/hunger/61480-access-water-sanitation-philippines

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