Remarks at World Water Day Event at University of North Sumatra

Selamat Siang.

I am very happy to be here at the University of North Sumatra. We have a wide range of successful cooperation with the University, including one of our most active American Corners. I am happy to be part of this important discussion, which is part of our celebration of World Water Day, which falls on Saturday (March 22).

Perhaps no two issues are more important to human health, economic development, and peace and security than water and sanitation. Without reliable supplies of water, we cannot grow food, we cannot produce energy, and we cannot sustain the environment upon which we all depend. Truly, water is fundamental to human life. And without proper sanitation, the natural environment is degraded and we are exposed to much more disease, and which has an especially important impact on children as they grow and physically develop.

There are many challenges. Today, as we observe World Water Day, millions of people worldwide still lack access to safe water and appropriate sanitation facilities. While the global population grows rapidly, already limited supplies of fresh water are increasingly depleted. Increasing urbanization and other human activities also further threaten the natural environment (our land, forests, rivers and lakes) where these limited water supplies are captured and saved. Climate change adds another challenge we need to respond to. Greater variability in rainfall will likely increase the number and severity of floods and droughts. Rising sea levels, storm surges, flood damage, and saltwater intrusion are projected to threaten human lives and livelihoods both directly and through diminished freshwater supplies.

The impact of these threats is serious. We should not doubt that water scarcity, poor water quality, and poor access to sanitation have severe consequences. They create the conditions for increases in disease, undermine economic growth, limit food production, and become an increasing threat to peace and security.

Given the importance of water and sanitation now and in the future, I am especially pleased to be at the University of North Sumatra and to see so many engineering, science, public health, and other students interested in these issues. And I am also happy to see so many young women involved as well.

Because there is much we can and must do to work together to meet the basic water and sanitation needs of our people. Governments need to prioritize water supply and sanitation in local, national, and regional development plans. We all need to protect forested land in upper watersheds, which increase raw water supplies, reduce erosion and limit downstream flooding. Scientists and businesses need to develop technologies that purify water, reduce waste and pollution, improve productivity, and promote efficiency and reuse. Engineers need to construct new infrastructure on a massive scale. Public health professionals need to improve people’s understanding of the importance of good sanitation and hygiene. And we all need to work together to make this happen.

Working together is especially important because the important challenges in water and sanitation do not exclude the United States. From New York to Los Angeles, our government at all levels is facing many of the same problems as Indonesia. For its part, the United States is committed to improving water security by ensuring that people have the water they need, where they need it, and when they need it. No child should die from a preventable water-related disease; no girl should fear collecting water or going to the bathroom; and no war should ever be fought over water.

Because of the global nature of the issue, we have partnered with 54 local governments across Indonesia, including in North Sumatra, to improve water supply and sanitation conditions. Under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) we are implementing the Indonesia Urban, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH) program. Specifically, we are working in partnership with your government to expand access to clean water for 2 million people and to improve sanitation conditions for 250,000 people living in urban areas, especially low income families. The IUWASH program is an important part of a broader U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership which strives to promote shared prosperity and improve the quality of life for all Indonesians, including people throughout North Sumatra. It is also part of the US Government’s commitment, under this Comprehensive Partnership, to help Indonesia achieve its ambitious Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015.

Under this program we are assisting local government in improving policies, finance and their capacity to implement needed improvements. We are assisting water utilities and private businesses in improving and expanding service delivery. And we are working with communities to mobilize their own talent and resources to improve water and sanitation conditions which not only improves the environment, but also their health and economic status.

Under IUWASH and in close partnership with the Government of Indonesia new water treatment plants are being developed, piped water supply systems are being expanded, new sanitation facilities are being constructed, and more people are learning about safe hygiene practices.

We look forward to continuing our work together with our partners to improve access to water and sanitation services. By working together, people can meet the challenges that face us and create a more water secure and healthy world. As you all embark on your new careers, I genuinely hope that you will be part of this important effort.

Terima kasih dan selamat siang.