What My Trip to Iceland Taught Me About India

In August I decided to book a spontaneous trip to Iceland to visit my best friend who had just moved there. We spent our days exploring the vast landscape of Iceland and I was absolutely blown away. But while at the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss I couldn’t help but think of the water and sanitation needs in India.

There I was, standing before a majestic waterfall watching the water flow so freely over the cliff into a pool and small streams. I watched pedestrians walk up to the stream and fill their canteens with pristine water, and all I could think about was the millions of people in India who cannot go to a stream (let alone a well!) and drink safe water.

With a population of about 330,000 people and being the same size as Kansas, Iceland has very little pollution from human waste. Everywhere you look there is clean water, so clean that people can drink right from the streams without fear of disease or infection.

The stark contrast of the lush oasis before me and picturing overpopulated slums in India hit me all at once. There is a grave inequity that exists in this world, and it is terribly unfair that billions of people are not as fortunate as those in Iceland who have access to safe water and toilets. Many developed communities have such easy access to clean water, while hundreds of millions of people risk disease from drinking their water, or must travel miles to fetch a small portion of water. Many developed communities have access to a toilet and yet in India, 600 million people still lack access to a toilet – that is almost half of the nation’s population!

It was an alarming thought and certainly not a feeling I expected to have while on vacation. But I am so glad it happened. It reaffirmed what we at WaterAid hold to be true: everyone, everywhere deserves access to safe water and toilets, and that where you live, should not dictate whether you live.

We Can Get Safe Water and Toilets for All

Now I am back in Washington, DC and I am working with other organizations to help pass a critical piece of legislation called Water for the World Act of 2013. This bill specifies how and where money for international water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs will be allocated. It ensures that projects abroad are using the best available information and are efficient and long-lasting. The bill also ensures that the US government have specific experts to manage and monitor these programs. And all of this is done without increasing taxpayer dollars.

The US invests relatively little in international assistance – only .2% of Gross National Income which pales in comparison to the 4.2% spent on defense! So it’s the utmost importance that we make sure the money available for WASH programs is invested wisely. Passing Water for the World will do just that.

Congress is back in session and they have a limited time to pass the bill and enact it into law before we have to start all over come the new session. Your representatives need to hear from you – their constituents – and hear how important it is to provide water and toilets for the poorest communities. Now is the time to speak up and act! Please take a minute and send a letter to your representative by clicking here.

Everyone can help! Take action and stay involved. Hold your politicians accountable. Try to donate whatever time and money you can. And remember: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”