No water, no life

  • We are affected by the health of our oceans, seas and rivers even if we live in a landlocked country
- Samriddhi Rai

Aug 1, 2017-

With the inclusion of Goal 14 in the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has taken an important step towards acknowledging the importance of oceans, seas and rivers, and the role they play in creating the “Future we want”.

Oceans cover roughly 70 percent of the earth’s surface and contain an estimated 50 to 80 percent of life on our planet. Whether we live on the coast, or on a landlocked mountain-top, the world’s water bodies impact our life. Water plays a vital role in regulating the earth’s temperature and climate patterns, acting like a giant solar panel that soaks up heat from the sun and distributes it across the earth. As much as 40 percent of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities that are causing pollution, depleting fisheries, and resulting in a loss of coastal habitats.

Growing up, Nepali youths have been taught to understand that our nation is a small land-locked mountainous country. We have hardly given much thought on how important life below water is, or how that ecosystem and its operation concerns us. It is of extreme importance that our educators remind young Nepali minds of how blessed we are with our abundant water resources, and how we are responsible for its upkeep.

Stewards for resources

We need to understand and ensure that ecosystems essential for life on earth must continue to flourish and remain resilient. We need to understand that we are all affected by the health of our oceans, seas and rivers even if we live in a landlocked country. The overall environmental health of our planet is critical to everyone. A small change in temperature, weather or water levels impacts the essential ecosystems greatly. Making small positive changes in our daily lives, like taking public transport and unplugging electronics saves energy. These actions help reduce our carbon footprint.

‘Life below water’ is not only about oceans. Nepal has many rivers and lakes; we are dependent on clean and healthy water for sustenance as well as for our livelihood. We should ensure that communities dependent on fisheries can thrive. We should commit to improved nutrition and increased availability of fish and fishery products.

All the SDGs are interlinked. Achievement of one can help in the achievement of another. If we take care of our oceans, seas and rivers and ensure sustainable fisheries, it will help us achieve SDG 2, which focuses on zero hunger, and SDG 8, which focuses on decent work. Equally, achieving SDG 7, which focuses on clean energy, can be a factor that helps us achieve SDG 14. Everything is linked and everything is important.

All 17 SDGs can be overwhelming for any person to comprehend at one go. Therefore, breaking them down and creating awareness for each of the goals through various campaigns is the right way to educate the people. 

Critical ecosystems

The next time you take a deep breath of fresh air, thank the vast water bodies of our earth. Tiny phytoplankton produce about half the oxygen on earth and form the foundation of the ocean’s ecosystem. These small creatures are critical to the survival of larger species, including the fisheries resources that directly support the livelihood of about 10 percent of the human population.

All of us are shareholders of the earth. As such, we must acknowledge our roles and act responsibly towards the planet and its bloodstream, the oceans. 

Covering nearly three quarters of the earth, the vast water bodies are the most prominent feature on the planet and are essential for planetary survival. Just as a person cannot live without a healthy heart and lungs, the earth cannot survive without healthy oceans, seas and rivers. They serve as the earth’s respiratory system, producing oxygen for life and absorbing carbon dioxide and waste. The water bodies regulate the climate and temperature, making the planet hospitable to diverse forms of life. I reiterate that regardless of whether a country is landlocked or has a coastline, all nations are directly connected to the oceans and seas through rivers, lakes and streams. 

Through activities such as sustainable fishing, renewable energy production and ecotourism, nations have been able to increase the rate of employment as well as provide good sanitation while decreasing poverty, malnutrition and pollution. Water-based economies provide more opportunities for the empowerment and employment of women, who make up the majority of the workforce in fisheries. The results of increased female employment include the strengthening of the economic vitality of small and isolated communities and the enhancement of the status of women in developing countries.

Robust awareness campaigns nationwide and infrastructure developments should help Nepal and Nepalis inch closer towards achieving the SDGs.    

Rai is a singer, songwriter and blogger; this article is part of the weekly series on SDGs

Published: 01-08-2017 08:32

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