Career in Water and Sanitation
In 2010, United Nations General Assembly recognized the Human Right to Water and Sanitation which is acknowledging the need of safe drinking water and sanitation essential to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. This has been followed by several UN agencies, especially UNICEF taking up the cause and implementing initiatives to achieve this goal.
While the international communities have initiated the process of implementing programs and spreading awareness in this regard, a lot still needs to be done. We see, for instance, in the face of natural disasters, the disposal of waste becomes one of the primary concerns. In addition to this, water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource with water tables not being replenished and usage only increasing. It is in this scenario that the poor and marginalized are most affected. Clean water is barely available to the rural poor and even in the urban slums in most developing countries. Proper utilization of water also then becomes an important issue to be addressed.
In the Water and Sanitation domain, a gap that is felt severely is the lack of academic programs to train individuals who can then be experts in these issues. A few courses however include a Graduate Certificate in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene at Emroy University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Apart from this, there are training programs such as the Sanitation Training Program for German NGOs.
There are training programs as well as online courses such as UNESCO-IHE online course ecological sanitation and Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox (SSWM). These courses provide information that can benefit with information that can benefit all those looking to pursue a career in this sector. However, a specialized degree isn’t always a requirement as working in this sector needs a variety of skills. Degrees in Environment Science, Civil Engineering or Public Health are also seen as valuable.
Globally, Water and Sanitation is considered as a basic infrastructural requirement. Not only in developed countries but also in developing and under-developed countries across the world water and sanitation is considered for continuous improvisation. Particularly in developing countries, the international support focuses on increasing the operational efficacy and bringing qualitative improvement to the state funded programs which creates avenue for good number of employment.
From a career perspective, in addition to the technical expertise in water and sanitation the sector offers good career for researchers, M & E experts and project/ program management professionals. Of late, Information technology is being used extensively for monitoring and evaluation. Mobile based applications are used to assess the ground realities of project being implemented by taking integrating the data with Geo-coordinates (latitude and longitude). Developing analytics and visualization of data is another emerging area.
In addition to desired level of skill and knowledge, working in Water and Sanitation domain requires openness to work with the rural and under privileged community. When it comes to primary research, one need to have the right attitude to interact with people and listen to them in their terms.
Sanitation is a private issue at large and to understand the challenges, the person has to interact with the female member of the family. Building a good relationship in a short span of time, sensitivity to culture and gender is quite central to sanitation research in addition to other aspects of research.
It is difficult to analyze issues of water, sanitation and hygiene in isolation as they have inherent inter-linkages. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s population still practices open defecation which invariably leads to a myriad of diseases, including diarrhea and other water borne diseases. The impact of these diseases has been felt most on the health of young children, making them vulnerable. Some of the central themes of focus are first, unsafe drinking water leading to water borne diseases; second, lack of sanitation facilities especially for girls which proves to be a major hindrance in their attendance in schools, thereby impacting their opportunities for work in the future and lastly, the need for basic hygiene practices such as washing hands to be taught and enforced. Issues of sanitation and hygiene are not restricted strictly to those of construction of toilets and eradicating open defecation but also deal with proper waste disposal and management, the lack of which is shown to contaminate water sources and hence lead to water borne diseases.
Working in this field of Water and Sanitation not only provides an enriching career but also gives an exposure to ground realities.
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