In Yangon, Myanmar, the celebrations were jointly organized by UN-HABITAT and UNICEF and the discussants at the workshop called on greater attention on urban water management and urged governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the issue.
The 2011 World Water Day theme 'Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge' is focused on bringing international spotlight on the impact of rapid urbanization, growth of urban population and industrialisation combined with climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water and sanitation systems.
UNICEF Representative in Myanmar, Mr. Ramesh Shrestha, conveyed the message of the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon at the opening of the workshop.
Six resource persons from relevant government ministries and NGOs were invited to present and discuss on issues such as: Water Management at Home, Women and Water, River Training Works in Myanmar, WASH-children-education activities of Water Research and Training Centre (2007-2010), Water Resource Conservation and Agriculture, and Harvesting Rain Water for use in urban setting.
Thanking the participants for joining the event, Mr. Srinivasa B. Popuri, Country Program Manager at UN-HABITAT Myanmar explained that a key feature of inclusive cities is access to basic urban services. With high urban densities, access to safe and reliable water supply and sanitation services is critical for health, business, social status, dignity and basic security for women and children.
"I am confident that with the collective support of our donors we will successfully implement water and sanitation programs to relieve the suffering of the urban and rural poor across the country", said Mr. Popuri.
Asia-Pacific sub regions seem to have done more for water supply than sub-Saharan Africa, but they have fallen behind Latin America and Northern Africa. According to the latest available data, between 1990 and 2008, access to water supply has improved in most Asian-Pacific cities, but the share of the urban populations with access to safe drinking water has declined by 3 to 12 per cent in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal.
"In improving the water sector, UN agencies in Myanmar should prioritize four factors: Encourage inclusive growth, Equitable access to quality social services, Reduce vulnerability to Natural disasters and Climate Change and Promote good governance," said Dr. Khin Maung Lwin, one of the presenters, a National Coordinator from Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
In her presentation, Dr. Ohnmar Khaing, coordinator from Food Security Working Group related that 18 per cent of the world's population lack access to safe drinking water, 42 per cent lack access to basic sanitation, and more than 2.2 million people die every year from diseases associated with these conditions.
By 2025, two thirds of world's population will live in areas facing moderate to severe water stress; an estimated 350,000 people in the world walk for 6 kilometers to fetch water every day, Dr. Khaing added.
"Safe, reliable, affordable and easily accessible water supply is essential for good health," said Mr. Dara Johnston, Chief of UNICEF's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Section. "Investment in the infrastructure is important to provide safe water, but of equal importance is the system which is developed to ensure the supply is sustainable, maintained and repaired when failure occurs."