Mar 22, 2019

Mar. 22 is known around the globe as World Water Day. Started by the United Nations in 1993, the day is held to recognize the importance of freshwater and to uphold safe water as a human right. Not everyone has access to safe water, especially marginalized groups, which is why water is such a pressing problem. In fact, it’s so pressing that “water for all” is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for 2030. To be honest, it’s ridiculous that we live in the 21st century and yet water is still an issue for many people, but here we are.

Originally, when planning this article, I was going to talk about the world’s growing water crisis and how some countries’ water supplies are held captive by the government or by corporations. And then during the second week of March, I started hearing people complain about not getting water. I didn’t understand what they were talking about (What do you mean no water? Were you cut off?) until I saw Manila Water’s post.

As of writing, Metro Manila has been under a water crisis for three weeks. There’s been a lot of talk about what went down (Maybe the El Niño didn’t cause this, maybe it’s an artificial water crisis), but since I’m a perennially-broke writer, I’d rather not risk the lawsuit. Besides, we’ve talked about the politics of this situation before. (Read: Water crisis: government, private concessionaires and consumers all bear responsibility and Prepare for more doomsday scenarios unless we find long-term solutions to the water crisis)

So let’s look at the human face of this crisis.

I wasn’t expecting the UN’s celebration to hit so close to home. I don’t just mean in the literal sense, in the fact that the region I live in is going through a water crisis. It’s also the fact that it’s the people who need water the most are the ones who’ve been hit the hardest.

Take small businesses. I went to a small mom and pop joint  a few days ago. This place usually closes its doors past 10 o’clock, but at 9 p.m., they were already turning away customers. “Walang tubig,” the waiter explained. Meanwhile, bigger establishments like malls are able to run smoothly despite the crisis.

But it’s not just them who’s affected.

Yesterday, I saw this tweet about public transportation in the region. “It’s like how I always say and how I always feel when I’m in Metro Manila: I lose my sense of dignity.”

And that’s the state of everyone living in Metro Manila right now: a loss of dignity. Where’s the dignity in living in a metropolis that can’t give its citizens enough water? Where’s the dignity in lining up by a fire station to stock up on water at the crack of dawn, hurrying so you have enough time to take a several hour long commute to work? Where’s the dignity in paying for water every month and finding out that the only contingency your water provider has in case of a shortage is to cut your supply?

I grew up in a province where power and water interruptions happened frequently. Yet this feels different. Stocking up on water then didn’t feel like an indignity there, probably because in small cities and towns where everyone lives 15 minutes away from work, at most, and the cost of living is cheap, water interruptions are more of a hassle and a headache. They’re still serious problems, but they don’t feel degrading.

But when you live in Metro Manila and you see official posts like this one in which an agency is implicitly criticizing you for being impatient about getting your water (and not taking accountability for not supplying the water on schedule), it does feel like an attack on you and your self-worth.

And let’s not forget that the citizens affected the most aren’t the abled bodies ones. The water crisis discriminates against PWDs. If you’ve searched the comments section of Manila Water’s recent posts as much as I have, then you’d have seen the many PWDs saying how the measures the firm have put into place have no regard for them. For example, in many areas, water is expected to come during nighttime. But for PWDs that have to follow a strict schedule for their medication, they can’t afford (or even are unable to) to stay awake to wait to collect water. And of course, even if it’s great that fire stations are letting people collect water from them, it still presupposes that you have working arms and legs.

The water crisis is hurting the people of Metro Manila. Why is it happening? I don’t know, but what I do know is that none of this should’ve happened. Happy World Water Day, I guess.


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Read more:

Prepare for more doomsday scenarios unless we find long-term solutions to the water crisis

Water crisis: government, private concessionaires and consumers all bear responsibility

Protect Mt. Holong Ipo, before deforestation cuts your water supply

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“Nana Rosa” and how we’re failing the comfort women

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TAGS: inequality Manila Water united nations water crisis world water day