Water is the key element of life. For over a decade, March 22 has been marked as the World Water Day to high light the importance of fresh water and the importance of sustainable management this natural resource. Due to the uneven distribution of water, which is an undermining denominator of leading challenges including sanitation, health, nutrition, energy and peace, this year’s theme has been designated as the year of ‘water cooperation’. Water is crucial for fulfillment of basic human necessities, ecology, and soco-economic development. Water and sanitation requirement perhaps remains the biggest challenge in wellbeing and also in the millennium development goals’ agenda. Contaminated water is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) sources in spreading waterborne diseases (including typhoid, diarrhea, cholera, and hepatitis) in addition to water borne parasites which contribute to 25%-30% of all hospital admissions according to the WHO statistics.
Therefore, the interlacing of water and health exists wherever human health is adversely affected, by changes in the quality and quantity of water whether in a rural or in an urban setting. These adverse effects are linked with poverty, environment and infrastructure in the overall socio-political and economic-developmental context. Millions of people in South Asia lack access to safe water and sanitation. For instance, in Pakistan, an estimated 250,000 children do not reach their fifth birthday each year due to water borne disease caused deaths. Increasing population, rapid urbanization, unsustainable agricultural and industrial developments have degraded freshwater resources. The preventable water-associated diseases contribute to the top ten causes of death in the region. The literature provides ‘good’ enough ‘evidences’ of lack of safe water leading to heavy burden of water associated diseases in South Asia. The existing governance system aims to provide good health, but fails to appreciate and address its link with safe water and sanitation. What is required is an integrated and demand driven approach to conquer water related health hazards.
The book Interlacing Water and Human Health looks at the linkage between water and health in an integrated manner, and is not based on the ‘absence of disease’ syndrome. The curative, preventive, and adaptive aspects of the public-health problem have also been delved into. Among other areas, the articles deal with water and health with reference to water supply, sanitation, water pollution, natural disasters, urbanization and industrialization. With latest evidence-based research and case-studies from South Asia, this book calls for a comprehensive understanding and better integration of water and health issues into the infrastructure vital for sustainable socio-economic development of the region.
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Anjal Prakash, PhD
South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies
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