Pope says we must correct our lifestyles to stop wasting or polluting water

A video message from Francis for World Water Day. It is "a fundamental, basic and universal human right, [...] a condition for the exercise of other human rights". For the day, the Dicastery for Integral human development releases update of the WASH project, conceived in August 2020.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "We must therefore hurry to give the thirsty a drink, to correct our lifestyles so as not to waste or pollute," says the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin today in a video message – released on behalf of Pope Francis - to FAO Director General Qu Dongyu, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, and participants in the virtual event that takes place on the occasion of World Water Day.

It is an invitation "to become protagonists of that goodness that led St. Francis of Assisi to describe water as a sister 'who is very humble, and precious and chaste'".

The theme chosen for this year, "Value water", invites us to do so. Cardinal Parolin affirms that “without water, in fact, there would have been no life”, but that this resource has not been treated with the care and attention it deserves. “Wasting it or contaminating it was a mistake that continues to be repeated even today”.

he Pope reminded us that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, […] a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”  (Enc. Laudato si', n. 30). It is a good to which all human beings, without exception, have the right to have adequate access, so that they can lead a dignified life. Thus, “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity." (Ibid.) “To this sad reality are added today the harmful effects of climate change”.

The spread of the throwaway culture and the globalization of indifference also contribute to this state of affairs, leading man to feel authorized to plunder and exhaust creation. Without forgetting the current health crisis, which has accentuated inequalities”.

The Pope, the video message concludes, invites everyone to "act with haste" so that everyone has access to water in an equitable way: stop wasting it, commodifying it and contaminating it. We need collaboration between states, the public and private sectors, as well as the input of intergovernmental organizations, and we need "binding legal coverage and systematic and effective support" to guarantee water of equal quality and quantity in the world.

For the Day, the Dicastery for the service of integral human development gives an update of the WASH project, conceived in August 2020. Then with a letter sent to all the bishops, the Dicastery invited them to contribute to ensuring adequate WASH conditions - access to drinking water, health services and hygiene - in health facilities belonging to the Church, "to treat patients safely, prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases, as well as protect medical staff and chaplains".

Episcopal conferences, dioceses, congregations and various Caritas branches have responded. A detailed evaluation is underway in about 150 facilities (from small dispensaries to hospitals) in 22 countries. Cost estimates are made to understand how to improve WASH conditions in a sustainable way and meet adequate standards with infrastructure, equipment, maintenance and training.

The same Dicastery in the document "Aqua fons vitae", published in 2020, noted that water "clearly appears to be one of the elements that have the greatest impact on 'integral and human' development" and is therefore part of the project for a new development model. It is also part of the "common good that the Church promotes and pursues", that is "the set of conditions of social life that allow both communities and individual members to reach their perfection more fully and more quickly".

The document notes that water is a resource for personal but also a resource used in many human activities, especially agriculture and industry and which therefore also has an economic value and finally water as a surface, i.e. rivers, groundwater, lakes and above all seas and oceans and which can be seen as a resource for peace.

Furthermore, "if water use has increased six fold in the last century and is growing today at a rate of about 1 percent a year, it is estimated that climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme events, such as storms, floods and droughts, will aggravate the situation in countries that already suffer from 'water stress'”.

The document also recalls the value and meaning that water has for religions. The Bible, for example, "has 1500 verses bathed in water, which speak of water. (...) There is a curious element in the language of the Old Testament (...): a single word in Hebrew, nefesh, simultaneously indicates the throat and the soul, the living being ".