Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene can fuel economic recovery: Report

Safely managed sanitation services can help achieve net benefits of $86 million from 2021-2040, says report   

By Swati Bhatia
Published: Friday 09 July 2021
Investing in water, sanitation and hygiene can fuel economic recovery, says report. Photo: Flickr

Safely managed sanitation services associated with access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have the potential to support wider societal transformations in line with the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

A report by Water Aid, an international non-profit focused, has identified the costs and benefits associated with WASH. The mission, called Mission Critical for all government and private bodies, aims to mobilise investments in WASH infrastructure and services to fuel economic recovery and sustainable development.

A large fraction of the global population does not have access to clean water sanitation and hygiene. This hampers the quality of life, particularly of the women and is a barrier to achieving gender equality. It also affects employment, education and death rates due to water-borne diseases.

The report — titled Mission-critical: Invest in water, sanitation and hygiene for a healthy and green economic recovery and made in collaboration with Vivid Economics, a part of consultancy McKinsey & Co — estimated annualised net benefits of $86 million from 2021-2040 owing to provision of safely managed sanitation services.

It added that safely managed water services could reduce up to 50 billion hours of travel time in two decades of the timeline mentioned.

Caroline Vexler,  senior economist, Vivid Economics, led the study analysis and quoted WASH investment as a triple win that promised growing economic opportunities, low cost health benefits and resilience to global risks.

The report came before the G20 summit, which will be held in Venice in July 2021. G20 is a wider intergovernmental grouping founded by the G7 at the turn of the century.

Global economic recovery post the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic would be among the major agenda alongside tackling climate change.

Governments have to drastically increase fundings towards WASH to fuel faster and sustainable COVID-19 pandemic recovery, the report said.

G7 summit 2021, which was recently hosted by the United Kingdom in June 2021, discussed about building a stronger and resilient global health system to sustain future pandemics along with climate change.

The G7, the group of seven industrialised nations comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, pledged to support low-carbon growth and economic recovery in the post-pandemic world. The report called the low- and middle-economies to take support of donors, international organisations and businesses.

They also suggested that donors increase collaboration and enable an environment to encourage investments. It recommended governments, international donors, organisations and businesses to finance $229 billion to low- and middle-income economies to be on track for SDGs 2030.

They also suggested the G20 governments to support fiscal stimulus packages to the tune of $6.5 billion to ensure health care facilities for access to safe and sustainable WASH services.

The report identified the need for WASH investments on war footing to tackle climate change. It recognised the same as a key agenda for G20 and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26)  scheduled in November 2021.

Investments will help end the pandemic and prevent future pandemics as well as help global economies bounce back, Tim Wainwright, chief executive, Water Aid, said.

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