The pursuit of water for all

By Anna Oposa

I hit the ground running when I arrived in Manila. On my first day back, I made a few calls regarding coastal law enforcement training for the Bantay Dagat members in Cebu. I also met with the folks of bobble Water Bottle, a company that makes PVC-free water bottles that filters water as you drink. Together, we are promoting reusable water bottles to decrease the number of disposable, single-use plastic bottles. I began writing an editorial for a local tech magazine about the power of technology in the field of environment, starting with some key takeaways from World Water Week.

“Why the rush to get back to work? Aren’t you jetlagged? You must be so tired!” remarked a few.

Okay, I’m no superwoman. I struggled to stay awake during a dinner-meeting for another project. But you see, I came home with a greater desire to do, to act, and to serve.

It is hard to quantify the impact of attending forums like the World Water Week. Forums are often criticized as “just a talk shop” or “a waste of carbon footprint.” While it’s true that we emitted a lot of greenhouse gases to get to Stockholm, it would only be a waste if we went back to our countries and did nothing. Our participation doesn’t generate income for the ADB, but we can offer other kinds of ROI. In my case, it’s committing to the tagline “water for all.”

I work in marine conservation, which doesn’t seem directly related to sanitation and access to potable water. But like Pocahontas sang, “And we are all connected to each other/in a circle/in a hoop that never ends.” My current project site, Malapascua Island, Cebu, has very limited fresh water and majority of the residents have no toilets. There is also lack of waste management, which means that the island’s wastes goes directly to the sea. The pollution affects the marine ecosystem.

I can’t solve the whole island’s problems, but I can help ignite and support projects that can. Our plans for the next few months involve waste management workshops for the residents, led by the teachers; swimming and snorkelling lessons for the high school students, led by the dive guides and boat crew members; and the second Arts-Science Festival with the students and teachers.

The pursuit of water for all means a greater appreciation of the water around us. This means more exposure to the wealth that lies beneath. Poet W.H. Auden said, “Thousands have lived without love. Not one without water.” I’d like to live in a world with both.