Zahra Khan Durrani

Written by

March 23, 2021


Most of us fast during Ramadan, but can you imagine having to go one day without any water at all, particularly during Covid times when we have to wash our hands all the time?

At the time of writing, from sunny Islamabad, I feel that winter came and went in a blink of an eye. It makes my throat feel dry just thinking about the heat that the summer season will bring with it.

When I shower in the morning, I need water. The cup of chai I am currently drinking holds water. When I get up from my table, I will need water to perform wudhu. I’m also thinking about having pasta for dinner, and when I need to prepare it I will need water to boil said pasta and then water to wash the dishes.

The list of things that I need to get done, that require the use of water, is never-ending, and this isn’t even taking into account the consistent need to wash hands to stay safe from the spread of Covid-19.

On 22 March every year, the world observes World Water Day, where the importance of freshwater is highlighted and challenges surrounding water are brought to the forefront.

This year the theme of World Water Day is ‘Valuing Water’. We’re exploring the inextricable links that water has with social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental factors, hence, examining its value and exploring ways how we can play a better role to protect this vital resource.

 

Covid-19, climate change and water: Facing the future

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Climate change is devastating water supplies and the planet.

Islamic Relief in Pakistan recently held a photography competition on the theme of climate change. It was no surprise that almost all of the entries received were on water scarcity as a result of climate change.

It’s hard to believe that more than two billion people around the world are suffering because of no, or limited access, to clean water. This roughly means that 1 in 3 people globally do not have clean drinking water, let alone enough to maintain good hygiene, which is critical to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

I was engaged in a conversation with my colleagues on water pollution in the country, when Mr Raza Narejo, who is the Head of Programmes at Islamic Relief in Pakistan, said:

In the event of Covid-19, water is key to save human lives so we have a collective responsibility to save water for now and the future.

The greatest global challenges today are that of an increasing population, diminishing water resources, and the persistent challenges associated with Covid-19.

All of these factors are of course directly or indirectly connected. Communities that lack clean water resources are the ones that are the most vulnerable and have a higher risk of catching the virus.

The pandemic will eventually come to an end. However, we still need to prepare ourselves for the far greater challenge of climate change that will only keep increasing in intensity if tangible actions are not taken by world governments and individuals.

Climate change threatens to make matters much worse for vulnerable communities around the world, and water is one crucial medium through which we can feel its devastation.

Higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions not only affect rainfall patterns, but also the availability and distribution of freshwater resources in river streams and groundwater.

Each and every one of us can make an effort to change this narrative. No matter where we work, or where we live, here are a few changes that can help the planet.

 

1. Broaden your perspective

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We need to change the way we think about water.

When we think about water, we immediately think of its obvious uses and things that are within our grasp – drinking, cooking, and watering plants. However, water plays a very crucial role in every sphere of life.

Water is a social resource that provides the means for households to put food on their tables and stay healthy.

It is an economic resource that gives individuals and communities opportunities for making products and competing in the markets. It is a political resource when water channels are distributed between borders – within and across countries.

Thinking of water from a multi-dimensional perspective is the first step to realising that freshwater availability, or lack thereof, literally makes or breaks individuals, communities, and nations.

 

2. Reduce and replace

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Cutting down on the amount of plastic we use critically protects water sources.

You can conserve water and reduce your carbon footprint simultaneously by making small adjustments in your life.

Firstly, we need to minimise the amount of water we use. We can make small changes to conserve water are by turning the tap off when we’re brushing our teeth, keeping check of any leaky taps, avoiding sprinklers in our gardens, and using a bucket of water for wudu rather than free-flowing water from the tap.

It’s also important to reduce the amount of plastic we use, for example, we can all cut our use of plastic bags, bottles, straws, and food items in plastic casings, etc.

This not only reduces the emissions it takes to produce these products but also ensures that plastic waste doesn’t end up in water streams.

 

3. Limit household waste

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Solid kitchen waste pollutes waterways so by composting your organic waste, you can protect water sources.

Both solid and liquid waste in the form of kitchen rubbish, chemicals in detergents and soap, and general litter, end up in waterways and flow downstream into rivers and oceans. Here, it then becomes marine debris.

In order to stop this from happening, you can prevent waste in the first place by keeping your drain under control. Avoid throwing anything down the sink such as food or oil.

Likewise, in the bathroom, avoid using the toilet as a bin. Do not throw items such as baby wipes, tampons, cotton wool or cigarette butts in it.

In terms of food waste, did you know that food waste is responsible for 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions?

You can minimise your carbon footprint as well as the level of household waste in your home by reducing food waste, but then if you do have any leftovers by turning kitchen waste into compost for your plants.

This not only lessens your contribution to landfills but also emissions of greenhouse gasses such as methane which contribute towards climate change and therefore climate-induced drought.

 

4. Think in cycles

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We need to change the way we view the use and re-use of water.

With population and consumption patterns rising exponentially, there is a pressing need to start thinking about how we as individuals can replace the traditional ‘produce-consume-destroy’ concept of consumerism.

We need to replace this with a more sustainable and cyclical pattern of behaviours – ones that go beyond just recycling.

We need to model behaviours that compel an individual to rethink the relationship they have with the products and materials that they consume on a daily basis. Only then can we avoid a future generation of waste and stop this pattern from re-circulating within the household to simultaneously protect the environment.

For example, when we talk about water, the only way we can keep it flowing is through a circular system that utilises every drop and treats used water for further consumption.

Although this is something the governments and businesses can do more efficiently on a much wider scale, individuals can practice circularity through many everyday measures.

We can save drinking water, make use of rainwater and reuse water wherever possible – for example re-using cooking water for the same meal, making smaller size drinks, and collecting rainwater to water indoor plants.

 

5. Get involved and advocate

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We can all campaign to make a difference!

Every effort, big or small, counts when it comes to advocating against climate change and healthier water usage.

You can ask your friends and family to support your cause and help them make small changes in their lives as well.

You can take steps to help preserve and restore the natural world by getting involved in campaigns and contacting your representatives at local, or even national level, to support laws and programs that protect the environment.

You could join conservation organisations, participate in campaigns and local activities – like clean up drives.

You can also play an active part in getting such as universities faith leaders, civil society organisations and workplaces to be active supporters as well. You’ll be surprised by how powerful leading by example can be.

Why not get started by taking action with Islamic Relief and joining our very own team of volunteer campaigners? Simply get in touch at: campaigns@islamic-relief.org.uk and start your campaigning journey!

 

As Allah (SWT) tells us in the Holy Qur’an:

O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. (7:31)

As is continuously being emphasised, water sustains human life and all socio-economic activities. As humanity’s most vital natural resource, a shortage of clean water can and will affect you no matter where you live in the world.

According to the UN, water scarcity will impact approximately five billion people by 2050 if we keep moving forward with the same unsustainable water consumption practices.

Simply talking about Covid-19 without shedding light on the prevailing global water challenges is not enough. With the impacts of climate change exasperating, it’s become crucial for us to change our thinking and behaviour patterns when it comes to using natural resources.

We don’t just need to get past this pandemic, but also to sustain our collective futures.

Here’s to 2021 being a turning point once and for all!

© Copyrights 2021 Islamic Relief Worldwide, Inc. All rights reserved. Registered Charity No. 328158

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