Friday, May 2, 2008

Canadian Water Network Article

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm working on a post, and will hopefully put it up soon. Until then, here is a short article that I wrote for the Canadian Water Network. CWN is a network of Canadian water researchers, mostly from universities and government, that focus on finding and promoting sustainable solutions to water quality. They are a big supporter of EWB, and their donations have funded a large part of my placement. For more information, check out

World Water Day

Every March 22, World Water Day comes and goes. In Canada, this day usually passes us by unnoticed. There may be a short editorial in the paper or perhaps a small display at the local university campus, but most of us are completely unaware that this day means so much to so many.

Here in Zambia, it is a very different matter - World Water Day is marked by small celebrations all across the country. This year I had the opportunity to take part in the festivities in the village of Chinweshiba. The celebration drew people from all the surrounding villages, as well as local leaders, including chiefs, village headmen, and local government officials.

Why then is World Water Day such a big deal in rural Zambia, whereas in Canada it passes by with hardly a murmur? Likely it is because water itself is hardly given a second thought in Canada. Merely turn on the tap, or turn down the right isle at the grocery store, and you can find safe, clean water. We rarely need to worry about where our water comes from, or whether it is safe to drink.

This is not the case in Zambia, and indeed in much of the world. In these places, getting water can often mean walking one or two kilometres and carrying water back to your home, and there is no guarantee that this water is safe to drink. In Zambia, in 2004, only 58% of the population had access to safe, clean water, and around the world, millions of people every day suffer from water-borne illnesses, many of them children.

It is for this reason that any opportunity to promote and celebrate clean water is welcomed with enthusiasm, and why I spent March 22 surrounded by over four hundred rural Zambians, celebrating and discussing water and sanitation. The particular event I attended celebrated achievements in water and sanitation in this area over the past year and reminded the community just how important clean water is. There were speeches, traditional singing and dancing, an essay competition, and a water-related quiz with plenty of prizes.

Towards the end of the day, as the events were starting to wrap up, though the atmosphere still festive, I took a few minutes to chat with Matilda Nkunta. Matilda is about 70 years old, and takes care of her three grandchildren – a reality for many grandmothers in Zambia whose own children have all passed away. She beamed with pride as she told me about the new well near her house, and how happy she is to not have to walk to the river to draw water any more.

Matilda received an award for having the cleanest household, and one for her contributions to the many development projects in the community. She also spoke to me about her granddaughter, saying “I know that she will be able to attend school more regularly now, because she won’t get sick as often. That is why this new well is so good for us, and why it is so important that we work for clean water”.

Matilda’s story is a perfect example of why we celebrate World Water Day. She reminded me how fortunate we are to have such an abundance of safe water in Canada and that we don’t need to be in rural Zambia on World Water Day to remember the millions of people around the world who lack access to clean and safe water.


Emily from FL said...

Hi Trevor!
I accidentally came across your blog & I think it's interesting because I'm headed to Zambia in 2 days.
Maybe I'll see you there.

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?