Should we look beyond 'jobs' to 'livelihoods' this World Water Day?

Theme of World Water Day 2016: Water and Jobs (Source: UN Water)
Theme of World Water Day 2016: Water and Jobs (Source: UN Water)

With water resources dwindling at a rapid rate globally and its predicted serious impacts on economies and livelihoods, World Water Day 2016 celebrated every year on March 22, has aptly chosen as its theme this year 'Water and Jobs'Almost half of the world's workers i.e. around 1.5 billion people, work in water-related sectors and most of these jobs depend on water or are related to those that ensure its safe delivery. In spite of this, a large number of these continue to be unrecognised or unprotected by basic labour rights. Thus, the theme focuses on how enough quantity and quality of water can change people's lives and livelihoods, and transform societies and economies.

The theme's relevance in India

Water related work and livelihoods continue to be threatened in India due to increasing scarcity, exploitation of available water resources due to urbanisation and industralisation, health threats and burden due to poor quality, and gradual neglect, encroachment and death of water bodies such as rivers, lakes, wetlands. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current agricultural crisis that the country is facing, as well as other water related occupations in the unorganised sector such as fisheries and allied industries, construction related activities etc. The livelihoods and survival of marginalised communities such as small farmers, women in farming, traditional and small fisherfolk, unorganised workers in the agricultural and industrial sector is under threat as they do not have any other systems of support in times of crisis.

Lack of adequate quantity and quality of water impacts the economy and livelihoods not only in a monetary manner but also by increasing the work burden, influencing poor health and sanitation outcomes, contributing to malnutrition and poverty, and loss of productivity.

The water and livelihood connection threatens to bring to the forefront a number of other important issues related to the following:

  • equity and water sharing
  • appropriateness of current models of development based on unsustainable use of nature and its resources
  • rights of communities to their natural resources
  • competetion and cooperation among communities to meet their livelihoods
  • importance of traditional knowledge and wisdom of communities vs scientific and technical knowledge
  • coping mechanisms devised by communities

Steps taken to ensure better quality and availability of water need to take into consideration all these aspects while thinking of the connect between water and livelihoods in India's context.

The articles below highlight the connect between water and livelihoods among different communities in India. They detail the challenges that the communities face to sustain their livelihoods in the face of the current water crisis and at times, the innovative ways in which they cope with it. 

 Fish traders in the state, which has the highest freshwater fish yield at 2,500 kg per hectare, are mainly groups of Bihari migrants playing to their strengths.

Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP speaks to India Water Portal about how healthy rivers and not dams are the best employment guarantees around.

Ujjain's own labourers, farmers and the Kshipra river will bear the brunt of the onslaught of pilgrims at the upcoming Ujjain Simhastha (Kumbh Mela).

Fishers livelihoods are being directly threatened by mechanised fishing methods and ecologically destructive fishing practices.

Urban floods and pervasive environmental pollution are living testimonies of unplanned and hurried urbanisation. With cities already stretched to their limits, how much more can they endure? 

Celebrations for World Water Day 2016 in Nagaon, Assam personify passion by honouring grassroots water-workers for their thankless efforts.

View our Storyform page specially created for World Water Day 2016.

Lead image source: UN Water