Zuweira Yakuba can now access safe, fresh water locally

“The water has helped my children’s education greatly,” says Zuweira Yakuba from Kulnyevula, Ghana. “When we went far distances to fetch dirty water they did not perform very well… Now we have water they are able to go to school early and study.”

Ms Yakuba and her family are among more than 1.4 million people who now have access to safe drinking water thanks to WaterAid and the HSBC Water Programme.

Our partnerships have helped improve life choices for so many people around the world

Her story reflects how the USD100 million, five-year programme is supporting local communities and economies around the world. It is one of the examples that HSBC and its partners are highlighting as environmental organisations, academics, policymakers and businesses from 130 countries meet in Stockholm for World Water Week.

The theme of this year’s World Water Week – an annual conference to discuss global water management issues – is the role played by water in sustainable growth. Easier access to clean water has certainly changed the prospects of Ms Yakuba and her family: as well as helping her children study, it has enabled her to concentrate on her job producing groundnut oil, meaning she can earn more.

HSBC Water Programme in brief

Launched in 2012, HSBC’s partnership with Earthwatch, WaterAid, WWF and more than 50 other non-governmental organisations has already exceeded many of its original targets. With projects in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the HSBC Water Programme partners have:

  • Provided improved sanitation to more than 2.1 million people

  • Helped more than 148,000 people to reduce the impact of fishing or farming on local freshwater resources

  • Protected more than 537,000 hectares of wetland and 1,824km of river

  • Trained more than 8,000 HSBC employees to measure the health of local lakes, rivers and ponds

  • Collected more than 15,000 water samples in 36 cities, helping scientists analyse the health of local freshwater sources

Sue Alexander, Senior Manager, Environmental Programmes, HSBC, said: “The progress we have made to help build healthy communities has been significant, and I’ve seen with my own eyes how our partnerships have helped improve life choices for so many people around the world.”

The Water Programme is also helping WWF to safeguard the habitats of endangered species such as the Ganges river dolphin, the Yangtze finless porpoise and the Irrawaddy dolphin (see box, below).

Meanwhile, data collected by HSBC volunteers – with training and support from Earthwatch – has helped scientists make several breakthroughs. These include understanding the impact of urbanisation on water quality, protecting local amphibian species and even preventing environmental damage by alerting authorities to excessive levels of chemicals such as nitrates and phosphates in rivers.

You can find further updates on the HSBC Water Programme at the Water Hub website.

Dolphins in the Mekong

The Irrawaddy dolphins of the Mekong river in Cambodia (pictured left) are a “living national treasure,” says Sok Lang, a tour guide in the village of Ochiteal. But the number of these rare and beautiful mammals has shrunk over the past decade.

As the local human population has grown, more and more people now fish in areas where the dolphins live. Though no-one is trying to catch the dolphins, they get tangled up in nets and suffocate.

Fortunately, local fishing practices are now changing. With support from the HSBC Water Programme, the environmental charity WWF has encouraged local communities along the Mekong to form volunteer village committees. These committees agree ‘no-take’ zones where fishing is not permitted, monitor local fish catches, and form patrols to monitor illegal fishing. Local projects also support villagers to develop alternative livelihoods, such as growing vegetables and producing handicrafts.

Their efforts appear to be making a difference. In September 2015, WWF’s dolphin population survey, which is funded by HSBC, showed that calves are surviving to adulthood for the first time in years.

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