World water crisis wake-up call

2012-03-12 22:36

Marseille - It is unacceptable that billions of people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Monday.

Speaking at the opening of the sixth World Water Forum (WWF) in Marseille, he said the time had come for the international community to tackle the problem.

"The number of people who have no access to clean water is in the millions.

"Each year, we mourn millions who have died from the health risks this causes.

"The situation is not acceptable; the world community must rise and tackle it," Fillon said.

The WWF, held once every three years since 1997, takes place against a backdrop of a world in which an estimated one to four billion people do not have access to good quality drinking water.

According to the World Health Organisation, diseases caused by poor sanitation kill two million people around the globe each year, 90 % of them children under five-years-old.

One of the forum’s focus areas is Africa, where an estimated 350 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, and 450 million are without sanitation.

On Wednesday, the WWF will host a special "Africa Focus Day", with discussions on, among others, water supply, sanitation, trans-border agreements and the effects of climate change.

African Ministers

South Africa’s Water Minister Edna Molewa, in her capacity as president of the African Ministers’ Council on Water, will attend a high-level meeting aimed at strengthening water security on the continent.

The five-day WWF ends on Friday.

Among the major issues under discussion is the push for the recognition of water as "an increasingly recognised political issue".

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognising the right to water and sanitation.

According to the forum’s organisers, "we need to amplify this movement and continue mobilising political decision-makers at all levels".

Also speaking at the opening of the event, World Water Council president Loic Fauchon called on delegates to "write a new chapter in the history of water".

Security around the Parc Chanot conference centre in Marseille was tight on Monday, with the arrival of more than 80 ministers and high-ranking officials.

A group of heavily armed French police officers lined the street at the entrance to the venue, and several burly plainclothes security men, in dark suits and sunglasses, scrutinised all who passed through.

In an ironic twist, those attending the WWF, the world’s largest water event, were required to pass through a security checkpoint, where they were asked: "Do you have any water?" Those who did had to hand it over.

By late morning on Monday, security officials had confiscated a boxful of plastic bottles.

  • Trevor - 2012-03-13 07:28

    Just travel to Asia/India and Mexico, you'll be shocked to hear, you DON'T get clean water meaning, you cannot drink from the tap and even a simple food like salad has to be treated before you eat it because it is not doubt rinsed under tap's not funny anymore...don't read about it, do some traveling and be sure the most common sickness is the runs...dehydration and sometimes, death....shocking but a countries tourism will never tell you this.

      Rob - 2012-03-13 09:04

      Maybe the problem is that infrastructure is not keeping pace with population. Always there have been places where water quality was suspect, it is not that many years agio when Spain, Portugal and Italy could be included. Connsidering the current trajectory of population growth is it likely that clean water infrastructure will reach everywhere, of course not....maybe water wars will reduce populatiuon growth!

  • nickandrewbuxton - 2012-03-13 22:04

    The confiscation of peoples' water in the story is a rather good metaphor for the attempt by private companies in previous decades to appropriate water resources. It was sold of course with the idea that it would bring greater efficiency, even though for many poor people who couldn't afford to pay it meant no connections or higher prices. But even this argument of efficiency is now defunct: Paris which recently remunicipalised its water, in other words brought it back into public hands, saved 35 million Euros in its first year and reduced rates by 8%. There are more of these stories in Remunicipalisation Works, a book being launched in Marseilles at the World Water Forum this week: see

  • Colin - 2012-03-14 12:08

    ".....As two of the world’s wealthiest nations, we embrace our responsibility as leaders in the development that enables people to live in dignity, health and prosperity....." Loïc Fauchon, President of the World Water Council, launched the 6th World Water Forum this week, with an opinion on what needs to be provided for 'people to live in dignity, health and prosperity', when he said ".....first and foremost, energy and water so they can finally pull themselves out of poverty....." The developing world will be spending £billions on coal fired power stations which use vast volumes of fresh water to cool the waste heat from their steam turbines. This useless heat is truly wasted. In the 1960s the US Administration withdrew funding to technological development of Molten Salt Breeder Reactors (MSBRs) in what is surely the 'Saddest Accident of History' ( ) . MSBRs, now known as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs), use gas turbines and the 'waste' heat from these is at a high enough temperature to desalinate water. Huge volumes of potable water can be produces from brackish ground water or sea water - and the cost is NEXT TO NOTHING. The Heads of State of the developing world must urgently liaise to get the first-of-a-kind LFTR up and running to get investment stimulated so that venture capitalists and fund managers are knocking the door down to get into the most essential technology of the 21st Century.

  • diego.singer - 2012-05-08 20:30

    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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