Water key resource for development activities, UN says in marking World Water Day

Water key resource for development activities, UN says in marking World Water Day

Noting the central role of water in development activities, United Nations officials today observed World Water Day by stressing the need for conservation as well as investment in cooperative activities that would make the valuable resource available to all.

"All too often, water is treated as an infinite free good," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message marking the Day. "Yet even where supplies are sufficient or plentiful, they are increasingly at risk from pollution and rising demand."

The Secretary-General said that the water problems facing the world need not be a cause of tension but could be a catalyst for cooperation, noting that later this year, the World Summit on Sustainable Development will convene in Johannesburg and that the UN General Assembly has proclaimed next year the "International Year of Freshwater."

For his part, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted that the one of the Millennium Goals adopted by the world's Head of States was to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water. "Without adequate clean water, there can be no escape from poverty," Mr. Toepfer said.

According to the agency, water pollution, poor sanitation and water shortages will kill over 12 million people this year, while millions more are in bad health and trapped in poverty, wasting much of their time and energy in the quest for clean water.

Mr. Toepfer urged greater investment in water services and conservation to develop and manage the resource more efficiently, advocating the implementation of high-tech solutions for water conservation and recycling. "Awareness at every level must be increased," he said. "If there is awareness, least-cost, often simple solutions for sustainable water conservation, such as roof rainwater collection, recycling and reuse, can also be put into practice."

Meanwhile, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that agriculture will need to produce more food with less water, as irrigated crop production is set to increase by more than 80 per cent by 2030 to meet the future demand for food in developing countries.

"An increase by 80 per cent can never be met with an increase of 80 per cent more water," FAO Assistant Director-General Louise Fresco said, noting that only an estimated 12 per cent more water can be made available for growing crops. "Agriculture needs to become more productive and needs to produce more crop per drop."

To highlight this challenge, FAO said that on 16 October - World Food Day - the agency would bring together government representatives and civil society organizations to focus on solutions to the problem of water scarcity and its impact on food security.

As for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the agency's International Hydrological Programme (IHPP), which provides a scientific basis for assessing the global water supply and developing sound principles for water management, is leading efforts to produce the World Water Development Report. Scheduled for release at the Third World Water Forum next year in Japan, the survey will give national decision-makers, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens access to a regular assessment of the global water supply.