The Stream, September 16, 2021: Waterways in the United Kingdom Are Polluted By Sewage and Agricultural Runoff, Report Says
YOUR GLOBAL RUNDOWN
- A new report sheds light on water pollution in U.K. waterways.
- New data finds that 2020 was the deadliest year on record for environmental activists around the world.
- Incarcerated women in New York complain that their drinking water has been contaminated after Hurricane Ida.
- Regional threats spurred by climate change have become a “blind spot” in Australia’s security planning.
Clean water is hard to find in the West African country of Sierra Leone.
“Water is a serious problem for us.” – Yirah Oryanks Conteh, a Dworzak resident who runs the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor. In Sierra Leone, clean water is hard to come by. According to UNICEF, less than one percent of Sierra Leone’s residents have piped water inside their homes. NPR reports that people like Yebu Bare and her family living in an informal settlement in the capital city of Freetown, have to buy drinking water every day, all while gathering up to 25 gallons of water a day from a nearby cement cistern. The city’s mayor has prioritized improving access to clean water, inaugurating the country’s first sewage treatment plant in June and backing a plan to construct 40 water kiosks throughout Freetown.
- Why it matters: Water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) measures are making strides across Africa and globally. Circle of Blue’s first exploration of the global community that aims to end water and sanitation deficits around the world found that the WASH world is at a rare inflection point. Over the last 50 years, the sector has spent over $400 million to improve conditions for billions of people in the developing world. In recent years the fog has cleared, and the more certain path appears to actually lead to universal access to clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene. Read our reporting on the state of WASH here.
IN RECENT WATER NEWS
‘The Opportunity is Now’: Water Advocates View Upcoming UN Climate Conference as Moment of Relevance
When they converge on Glasgow this fall to rekindle pivotal global climate negotiations that were dampened during the pandemic, diplomats and government ministers will confront a world much changed since their last convention.
Events of the past year — torrential floods, exhausting droughts, deadly heat waves — sharpened focus that society must adapt to these climate changes. This recognition is pushing adaptation up the agenda in the weeks preceding the Glasgow meeting, which runs from October 31 to November 12. Some have taken to calling the UN’s 26th climate convention the “adaptation convention.”
Water advocates view the attention to adaptation as an opportunity. Water has been relatively neglected in past UN climate conventions, even though the consequences of climate change will largely be felt through deficits and surpluses of water.
In Case You Missed It:
Dam Battles Converge on Cambodia’s 3S Rivers – The rivers are an ecological bounty in the Mekong watershed. But technical reviews pay little attention to environmental costs of dam building.
HotSpots H2O: ‘Global Indigenous Agenda’ Calls for Water, Land, and Resource Governance at 2021 IUCN World Conference — Indigenous activists and organizations from around the world met virtually this week for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Zoom-based World Conservation Congress.
New Report Sheds Light on Widespread Water Contamination in United Kingdom
A new report, titled Troubled Waters, from several environmental charities in the United Kingdom shines a light on water pollution across the UK and calls for stronger environmental regulations and more sustainable practices across major industries. The report found that agricultural waste, raw sewage and pollution from abandoned mines are harming water ways across the United Kingdom. Among its recommendations, the report calls for the transition to regenerative farming practices and urges water companies to stop releasing raw sewage into waterways.
TODAY’S TOP WATER STORIES, TOLD IN NUMBERS
Global Witness’s annual report found that in 2020, 227 environmental advocates were killed for the activism—half of which were from either Columbia, Mexico, or the Philippines. The report found that of the lethal attacks, 20 were linked to activists in the water and dams sector. Although the report’s findings made 2020 the deadliest year on record for environmental activists, the report’s authors say the numbers are most likely underestimated, since many attacks go unreported.
- Why it matters: At the end of March, environmental activist Carlos Cerros was killed in Honduras, in the town of Nueva Granada, Circle of Blue reported earlier this year. Data published last year by Global Witness found that Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for land and environment defenders. Environmental activist deaths rose from four in 2018 to 14 in 2019. In 2020, that number rose again, this time to 17. The killings are part of a troubling international trend.
Several women incarcerated at prisons in Bedford Hills, New York, told NBC News that their drinking water supply has been contaminated since Hurricane Ida struck the region at the beginning of the month. According to Brittany Austin, who is incarcerated at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, more than 40 people complained to the facility’s clinic of stomach issues from the drinking water, but none were treated. Although prison officials say the water is not contaminated, incarcerated people at the facilities say this is not the case.
- Why it matters: Chronic problems like infrastructure maintenance in jails tend to be magnified in times of crisis, Circle of Blue reported last summer. Hurricane Harvey, in 2017, flooded three state and federal prisons in Beaumont, Texas. Drinking water was disrupted for days and some inmates complained of dehydration. The vast majority of prisons are underprepared for hazards like natural disasters and disease outbreaks. The reason? Correctional facilities are underfunded, said Melissa Surette (Savilonis), adjunct professor at Endicott College and an emergency management professional.
ON THE RADAR
Hundreds of millions of people from south-east Asia could end up displaced in Australia because of climate change, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. That warning comes from the former United Nations Secretary General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction Robert Glasser, who said that regional threats have become a “blind spot” in Australian security planning. According to a recent report by the Australian non-profit Climate Council, the country has fallen behind other world leaders in the U.S., Britain, Japan, and New Zealand in its analysis of climate security threat.
Jane is a Communications Associate for Circle of Blue. She writes The Stream and has covered domestic and international water issues for Circle of Blue. She is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University, where she studied Multimedia Journalism and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. During her time at Grand Valley, she was the host of the Community Service Learning Center podcast Be the Change. Currently based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jane enjoys listening to music, reading and spending time outdoors.
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