Citizens Seek Access to Clean Water in Bolivia

SEATTLE, Washington — Having access to clean water should be a basic human right for people all over the world. However, obtaining clean water is not always so easy in developing countries like Bolivia. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. In 2000, especially during its water war in Cochabamba, citizens had a limited supply of clean water in Bolivia. After the privatization of the water system, prices surged and it even became illegal to collect rainwater. This led to extreme protests in Cochabamba where protestors spoke out against the abusive water laws. As a result, the Bolivian government decided to stop the increasing prices of water and vowed to eliminate the privatization of water.

Contaminated Water Causes Health Issues

Even after the water war, many citizens still grappled with water access issues. As of 2017, more than “three million people in rural areas” did not have access to clean water. For this reason, many people who live in the countryside suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses from contaminated water. This number has the potential to increase since Bolivia faces environmental threats that can greatly deplete or harm already existing water sources.

Drought Threatens Water Security

The year 2016 brought the worst drought that Bolivia has seen since the ’80s. More than 400,000 people did not have an adequate water supply in cities across the country. As explained by the United Nations, 40% of Bolivia’s glaciers have melted in the last 20 years. Water rationing is not uncommon, even in urban areas. Lack of water also impacts rural areas and small farms where the crop yields diminish yearly.

Clean Water Initiative

A project called WEAP, or the Water Evaluation And Planning tool, helps the country to foresee and plan the future of water security for its citizens. This tool provides officials with a detailed model of Bolivia’s lakes, streams and rivers to calculate water security at the current moment and in the years to come. WEAP formed in efforts to improve water conditions in areas all over the country and it even gives measurements about the available water supply using satellites. The program also trained 40 water planners to process the data.

The Bolivian government vowed to allocate millions of dollars to resolving water scarcity concerns. Under the leadership of President , it has kept its word by dedicating almost $3 million in the past 13 years towards securing access to clean water, sanitation and irrigation systems. Investments are also still rising, which is very promising for the citizens of Bolivia.

All of these steps have put Bolivia on the right path toward ensuring clean water for all of its citizens. Around 86% of the entire population now has access to safe drinking water, and more than 95% of city residents can reach clean water. Additionally, 78% of rural residents no longer have to worry about water security, which is almost a 35% increase since 2005.

So far, the Bolivian government is seeing great success in reaching its goal to provide clean water access to the entire population by 2025. In 2009, the Bolivian Consitution officially declared access to drinking water and sanitation a human right. The Bolivian people even came together to form “water committees” to spread information about the management of water resources, sanitation and environmental challenges.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Unsplash

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