Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.4 ? Print E-mail
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Written by By Rudolph Williams   
Thursday, 07 December 2017 00:00

Last week I reported that the SDGs are designed to finish the job started by the MDGs, that is, to get to a statistical “zero” on hunger, poverty, preventable child deaths and other targets. Included is the set of goals, is to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” also known as SDG 6.  The SDGs unlike the MDGs are applicable to all countries, rich and poor, and developed and developing.

Belize has always focused on the provision of potable water, and under the MDGs we did an excellent job.  However SDG 6 includes seven targets and only Target 6.1 is specific to drinking water (potable water). All other targets refer to sanitation, water use efficiency, wastewater management, gender issues, international cooperation for water, the natural water environment, and Integrated Water Resources Management. The reason for this shift is that the MDG 7 outdid itself in most parts of the world, including Belize.  There is now the need to ensure that the Green Infrastructure will be able to sustainably provide water for potable use without imperiling these natural water systems.

So reviewing SDG 6, Target 6.4 “to substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity by 2030” requires a Water Resources Management Master Plan (NWRP) to establish a baseline on which Belize can assess changes in water-use efficiency over time, Indicator 6.4.1.  The Belize NWRP is mandated in Section 14 of the National Integrated Water Resources Act (NIWRA) of 2010 commenced in 2015.  Therefore SDG 6 Target 6.4 can easily be achieved.

The NIWRA mandates the establishment of the baseline in Section 14. (2)(a), through the collection of water resources use and quality data by consulting with persons, organizations or any agency, government or otherwise.  After the collection and collation of the data carry out studies and investigations to inform the NWRP.  The preparation of this Plan is in tandem with the new SDG perspective to “increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts”  by 2020, that is the next three years.

SDG 6.4 Indicator 6.4.2 addresses the level of water stress with respect to freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources.  The NWRP will inform the safe abstraction volumes from our streams, rivers and aquifers and the NIWRA PART V regulates such abstractions.  This is the same regulatory function that both the majority and minority sides of the National Assembly ranted about.  Suggesting that this function was the reason a major agricultural operation in the north exited Belize.  We now know the real reasons. And we now know that water well borings without drilling permits was/is rampant and that the aquifers are now left perforated like Dutch (Edam) cheese, vulnerable to contamination.  Oil a natural resource that is much less vital to survival of life on earth has more stringent well drilling requirements than water. “¿Qué está pasando aquí?” The Willy Nilly granting of water abstraction licences, especially in vulnerable water systems, can lead to water scarcity and the associated water quality, economic, health, environmental, and social issues, not mentioning the SDGs main pillars “Hunger and Poverty” due to agricultural water challenges.

Belize needs to act quickly if we are to achieve the 2030 SDG 6 Target 4, and to realize the 2020 SDG data perspective. We need to recognize that such achievements are inextricably linked to the preparation of National Water Resources Management Master Plan.

The National Water Resources Management Master Plan is inextricably linked to the implementation of the National Integrated Water Resources Authority.  The MDGs were largely envisioned to be funded by aid flows – which did not materialize. The SDGs put sustainable, inclusive economic development at the core of the strategy, and address the ability of countries to address social challenges largely through improving their own revenue generating capabilities.  So did the NIWRA in Section 16. (1) which requires all persons who wish to abstract water, augment, distribute, or use water resources to be licensed by the NIWRA and in Section 17. (h) such licensed persons shall pay prescribed charges for use of water.  This concept is embodied in all the SDGs.  Achievement of SDG 6 Target 6.4 is a possibility.