News24

Time to tackle global water crisis

2012-03-12 14:54

Marseille - A global meeting on water opened in France on Monday with demands to provide billions of poor people with clean water and decent sanitation and address the spiralling demands of the future.

"The challenges are huge and the problems are deep-rooted," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said as he opened the sixth World Water Forum in the southern city of Marseille.

"The number of human beings who have no access to clean water is in the billions. Each year, we mourn millions of dead from the health risks that this causes. This situation is not acceptable - the world community must rise and tackle it."

The World Water Forum, held every three years, gathers policymakers, big corporations and non-governmental organisations.

As many as 20 000 participants from 140 countries are expected for the six-day event, including scores of ministers for the environment and water and a scattering of heads of state from francophone west Africa.

Climate change

Separately, a massive UN report, issued only once every three years, said water problems in many parts of the world were chronic.

Without a crackdown on waste will worsen as demand for food rises and climate change intensifies, it said.

"Pressures on freshwater are rising, from the expanding needs of agriculture, food production and energy consumption to pollution and the weaknesses of water management," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report.

"Climate change is a real and growing threat. Without good planning and adaptation, hundreds of millions of people are at risk of hunger, disease, energy shortages and poverty."

Demand for food will increase by some 70% by 2050, which will lead to a nearly 20% increase in global agricultural water consumption, the UN's Fourth World Water Development Report said.

Abstraction of aquifers has at least tripled in the past 50 years and now supplies almost half of all drinking water today. "In some hotspots, the availability of non-renewable groundwater resources has reached critical limits," the report said.

The report demanded an overhaul in the use of water, especially by curbing waste. Smarter irrigation, less thirsty crops and the use of "grey", or used water, to flush toilets are among the options.

Environmentalists

Already, more than 2.5 billion people are in need of decent sanitation and nearly one in 10 has yet to gain access to "improved" drinking water, as defined under the UN's 2015 development goals.

Ministers attending the forum will issue a non-binding statement on Tuesday affirming their awareness of the problems and intent to fix them.

Looking ahead to the "Rio plus 20" summit in June, Fillon stood by France's plan to create a World Environment Organisation, an idea opposed by the US.

"What is at stake here is the historic change of our societies from a development that is economically efficient but environmentally destructive to a model that combines economic development, the fair sharing of resources among the region's of the glob and the preservation of ecosystems," said Fillon.

The water forum is shunned by some environmentalists or development activists, who deride it as a trade fair lacking democracy and transparency.

An alternative forum is being staged elsewhere in Marseille by 2 000 members of civil society from Europe, the US, Latin America and Africa.

"Water cannot be solely determined by politicians, financiers and technicians," organisers of the rival forum said in a statement. "Every woman and every man, whatever his responsibilities, must take part in decision-making, contributing to the protection of water and ensuring fair access to it."

Comments
  • JudithNkwe - 2012-03-12 17:52

    And the way we're going in SA, we'll be the first ones out of water

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  • diego.singer - 2012-05-08 20:31

    To many people worry about the acid in the water but similar but worst things happen at Granite Factories spilling the toxic slurry into the storm drains most of the time. So ask youself: Is Granite Toxic? Yes, very much so! There are three main dangers, dust ingestion, dust inhalation, and heavy metal leaching caused by acidic food or drink. Granite contains Polonium, Lead, Plutonium, Uranium, and Thallium. Other heavy metals like Arsenic, Mercury, Tungsten, Cadmium and Vanadium are also present. Heavy metal leaching is by far the worst danger. Granite contains three main sources of both heavy metals and radiation, Potassium 40, Thorium, and Uranium. Keep in mind that all three of these elements are unstable, they do decay constantly into other elements. Thorium is more of a danger to elaborators than homeowners, if aerosolized or present in dust form, it can lead to increased risk of cancers of the lungs, pancreas, and blood. If ingested, there is an increased risk of liver diseases. Here is a link to a chain of 20 radioactive particles emitted per atom of Thorium present. The long half lives don't matter, some are decaying at all times. Note that many of the steps in the decay chain are toxic heavy metals, Polonium, Plutonium (yes, that Plutonium), Uranium, Thallium, and Lead. The rest of the steps are just radioactive! Granite has more poisonous substances in it than any other countertop material, by far; And find the way that the Granite factories stop spill....

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