With the theme “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World”, the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in Manila, not only gathered 21 heads of state of member countries to formulate policy initiatives and recommendations towards improving economic conditions, but also to discuss environmental issues such as water pollution that threaten and hinder inclusive growth and development.
Under the APEC Summit’s key priority of “building sustainable and resilient communities”, addressing water pollution issues will help ensure improved access to clean water.
In a public-private dialogue on water, one of the activities leading up to the APEC Summit, government and private sector representatives, and experts from eight member economies presented their solutions to challenges such as water shortage and water pollution, securing drinking water, and mitigating water pollution, especially in urban areas.
Among the good practices shared during the dialogue were a septic tank with solar‐heated water for efficient wastewater treatment proposed by Thailand’s Thammasat University, a novel financial evaluation called “Life Cycle Cost” for building efficient wastewater management system proposed by Japan, and legal and technological solutions for domestic wastewater in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
Open defecation, toilet sanitation and water safety
As part of its own effort to address water sanitation problems, consumer goods manufacturer Unilever Philippines, through its leading germ-kill expert brand Domex, has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to stop open defecation which threatens drinking water sources and public health in far-flung villages in Masbate and North Cotabato.
Open defecation refers to the practice whereby people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces to defecate as they do not have access to toilets.
To date, there are 157,997 people in Masbate and North Cotabato that have been positively impacted by the improvements in sanitation practices through the partnership of Unilever and UNICEF.
One million clean toilets movement
Domex also leads the movement for 1 Million Clean Toilets which aims to educate a million Filipinos every year on proper toilet hygiene towards fighting diseases caused by unsanitary toilets. This year, the movement has partnered with health institutions and hospitals through the Philippine Public Health Association. These institutions include the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, East Avenue Medical Center, and Rizal Medical Center.
The program includes training of hospital housekeeping staff on proper toilet hygiene and distributing educational materials to patients. Unilever also partnered with Maxicare to enable its network of doctors to encourage more than one million people to adopt proper hygiene practices.
Unilever’s efforts on toilet sanitation are in line with their long-term commitment to the global Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which aims to improve the health and well-being of two billion people worldwide by 2020.
Ensuring access to water and sanitation among new UN goals
During the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in New York, UN member states adopted a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlighting 17 global sustainable development goals that can end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity. One of the goals includes ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
The global agenda states that poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world; and at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is contaminated with fecal matter.
By 2030, the new UN sustainable development goal targets to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all as well as end open defecation.