It has been 30 years since the world first came together to celebrate World Water Day, held each year on March 22. The day aims to raise awareness of the value of water, with an estimated 2 billion people living without access to clean water.

“This year, World Water Day is focused on accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis,” said a UNESCO press release.

“On this day, UNESCO would like draw attention to the extent to which water, whose cycle is global, is permanently at odds with human boundaries,” it added.

The world committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 as part of the 2030 Agenda – the promise that everyone would have safely managed water and sanitation by 2030.

Water is the most valuable of resources. It provides hygiene and cleanliness. The flow of water has brought abundant wealth such as fish and other resources which are important for all nations.

According to a 2023 UN report, water demand will increase by 40 per cent this year, more than the amount that is available. A 2021 estimate suggested that 26 per cent of the world’s population lacked access to safe drinking water and 46 per cent encountered problems with sanitation.

In response to the problem, the Cambodian government, along with civil society organisations, celebrates World Water Day every year and encourages people to understand the true value of water.

Yi Kim Than, deputy country director of Plan International (Cambodia), told The Post that for World Water Day 2023, his organisation and its partners have accelerated plans to solve the water and sanitation crises in rural areas.

“PIC is cooperating with several state institutions and development partners to ensure that all Cambodian people will have access to clean water by 2030,” he said.

“We are working on several projects to create new water sources. We have promoted the use of toilets and encouraged changes in attitudes towards water and sanitation in target areas in Siem Reap, Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri provinces,” he added.

A USAID Morodok Baitang Project press release claimed that almost all of the world’s fresh water is underground. Groundwater is highly dependent on forest cover so soil can effectively retain water.

“Deforestation could lead to water loss from Cambodia’s watershed and could intensify some of the other effects of climate change, such as severe natural disasters like floods and droughts,” it said.

It explained that some parts of Cambodia, such as the Central Cardamom Mountains National Park, are watersheds for the Tonle Sap Lake.

“These watersheds store fresh water in the ground and supply water to the lower parts of the lake, a resource which millions of Cambodians rely on,” it added.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that Cambodia now has 7.3 million hectares of protected areas, or about 41 per cent of the country.

“Groundwater is a hidden treasure that enriches people’s lives. Preserving these water sources and contributing to a reduction in the use of water is important if we want to contribute to the sustainability of water resources for future generations,” he said.

He believed that On World Water Day, Cambodia had taken action to urge people to realise the value of water and protect water sources for the coming generations.

“To store freshwater sources for use and stave off a potential water shortage, we must all participate in the conservation of natural resources, especially forests, which help the ground to retain water,” he said.

“Underground water is invisible, but its effects are seen and felt everywhere. Almost all of the freshwater in the world is underground. As climate change worsens, the watersheds are under threat. We must work together to manage this precious resource, sustainably,” he added.