“Humanity still has the ability to work together to build our common home”
– Pope Francis-
Water is one of the most important basic natural elements on which the planet Earth is comprised of, as it constitutes 71% of the land area. In addition, water is recognized as the giver and the source of life, bestowing a prime position in the cycle of life due to its high importance. Hence, the right to water and sanitation was recognized as a human right by the UN general assembly in 2010. Not only water is a core human right, but it is also indispensable for our economies, ensuring food and energy security, promoting peace and health, protecting nature, and combatting climate change. Stepping Stone to Safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Natural Environment Project (SSEP) is implemented by Caritas Sri Lanka in 2022 with the ultimate goal of restoring and rebuilding the degraded environment of Sri Lanka with community involvement. Restoring the existing drinking water resources is one of the key areas that SSEP is focusing on.
Therefore, World Water Day was celebrated by Caritas network in many parts of Sri Lanka in March 2023 under theme of ‘Water for a sustainable world’. Caritas Diocesan Centers conducted several awareness-creation activities such as cleanup campaigns, walks and awareness sessions in March 2023 under SSEP, while highlighting the importance of water and sanitation.
Caritas Colombo – Seth Sarana organized a beach cleanup at Negombo Wellaveediya on 22nd March 2023 under SSEP. It was a remarkable event conducted by Seth Sarana collaborating with NGOs such as UNHCR, Red Cross, and ‘Theppan Dhiwara-fishermen Society’. The SSEP National Team also participated in this event. Members from Wellaveediya fishing village where, Seth Sarana hopes to build an environment group also volunteered at the event.
Government agencies such as Negombo Environmental Police, Negombo Municipal Council, Development Officers, PHIs, and Coastal Conservation Department officials also gave their fullest support and corporation in making this event a success. Rev. Fr. Gayan Prashantha, the parish priest of Wellavidiya St. Sebastian Church and Rev. Fr. Prasad Rangana, Assistant Director of the Caritas Colombo Seth Sarana took the leadership of gathering the entire program. Fr. Prasad Rangana did a small awareness session on ocean pollution and how human activities are disturbing the nature of an eco-system before the event gets started. Participants were provided with gloves, trash bags, and other necessary equipment to ensure the cleanup is conducted safely and in an efficient manner.
Caritas- Valvuthayam restored an abandoned public drinking water well at Southpar village under SSEP. This restored well was opened for public use on 22nd March 2023 in line with the World Water Day 2023.
In addition to emphasizing the theme of World water day 2023 ‘Water for a Sustainable World’ a walk & an awareness session were organized with Southpar Village Level Environmental Group (VLEG). The main goal of this parade was to address the importance of water in sustainable development & the challenges faced by the local communities to get adequate drinking water.
Mr. Balasingam Thyaparan ,Technical officer from the National Irrigation Department, Mr. R. Rejiwoltan, Development officer from Central Environmental Authority, Mr. Arunraj, Forest establishment officer from the Department of Forest Resource and Management, Mr. Riza Hampagae, Wildlife officer from Department of Wildlife Conservation, GS of Southpar village, Development Officers and Samurdhi Officers participated in this event under the leadership of the Director of Caritas Valvuthayam Rev.Fr. Anton. A group of 40 participants from Southpar Village Level Environmental adult, youth and children groups participated in this event.
The Diocese of Jaffna renovated and handed over a well to a primary school in Navaly to fulfill their water needs in line with the World Water Day commemoration. A parade was also organized with the active participation of schoolchildren to address the importance of safeguarding the environment and conserving water.
Rev.Fr.Eugene Francis the Director of HUDEC Caritas Jaffna along with the staff participated in the event. He explained to the children the importance of World Water Day and how our life is dependent on water for survival. Rev.Fr. J. B. Antonythas, the parish priest of St. Peter’s Church Jaffna, Mr. P. Ramesh the principal of J/Navaly St. Peter’s R.C.T.M School, Mrs. Yasotha Uthayakumar, Divisional Secretariat Sandilipay and Mr .S. Kajenthiren (PHI) participated in the event.
Meanwhile, Caritas Vanni Hudec organized a beach clean-up campaign at Mullaitivu Beach. A group of 120 members from Muzhankavil, Ootruppulam, Vellappazham, Mulliyavazhai and Kichchirapuram Village Level Environmental Groups participated in this event. A parade to address the importance of conserving water for a sustainable life took place from Mullaitivu Beach to Mulliyavazhai. In addition, Caritas Vanni Hudec restored a public abandoned well and opened it for public use on the same day under SSEP.
Caritas Batticaloa EHED organized a cleanup campaign at Pillaiyaradi lagoon area to address World Water Day. Rev. Fr. Jesudhasan Director of Caritas EHED Batticaloa, Mr. U. Sivarajah the Assistant Commissioner Municipal Council, Batticaloa, religious leaders along with the Paalameenmadu Village level Environmental Group participated in the event. In addition, the Diocese of Batticaloa carried out a visibility campaign and displayed banners at several places to raise awareness about the importance of water conservation.
The Diocese of Chilaw also joined hands to commemorate the World Water Day by conducting a beach cleanup at Katuneriya Beach. Rev. Fr. Dilan Marius Fernando the Director of Caritas Chilaw along with Caritas Chilaw staff and Katuneriya village level environmental youth group members participated in the event.
Caritas Kandy SETIK also addressed World Water Day on 22nd March 2023 by conducting a cleanup campaign at Panmure lakeside. ‘Malarum Mottukal’ Village level environmental group from Panmure. Project Coordinator from Caritas Kandy SETIK, Mrs. Dharshika along with staff from Kandy SETIK participated in the event. Dharshika addressed the importance of conserving natural water resources to the public. A bill board was also established near the lake after the cleanup campaign.
World Water Day is celebrated annually on the 22nd of March to celebrate water and raise awareness on access to safe and clean water. 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity due to over demand, mismanagement and the impact of the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Clean drinking water is fundamental but it is also vital for sanitation and hygiene. Therefore, raising awareness of the importance of water consumption and conserving existing water resources is important to ensure the good health of our future generations. These beach cleanup programs will help to reduce ocean pollution and inspire participants to make a sustainable difference in their daily livelihood and attitudes in genral.
2.2 billion people worldwide need regular access to clean water. So, these cleanup programs are not only for the community around its area but crucial for the whole world to reduce water pollution. By working together, we can protect our water resources and ensure they remain healthy and thriving. The once-littered and polluted oceans can be transformed into a beautiful oasis of clean sand and crystal-clear waters for generations if everyone joins hands on this world water day.