Fundamental Water Issues"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter". Martin Luther King Jr. We, in the West, are fortunate not to suffer any major water shortages, or experience water supply cut-offs, like many war-torn, or developing world countries are consistently subjected to. This fact makes us blithely oblivious to some pressing fundamental global water issues. While the world's population is growing steadily, sources of ground and fresh water are not. Cities are increasingly relying on water from nearby rivers. This pumping and diverting of the water is causing major environmental damage and pollution, not to mention the continuous decline of water levels.
We take clean water blissfully for granted, because it's always so abundantly available to us. Unfortunately, this very fact makes us totally oblivious to the daily suffering, hardship and misery of people around the world, living in countries where water is polluted and scarce. Over 3 billion people in the developing world suffer daily from poverty and fatal diseases due to lack of clean water and proper sanitation.
The reality today is that the issue of water is no longer limited to areas of the third world, but is predicted to soon be a major concern for people all over the world.
The Threat of Climate Change and Global Warming
Climate change due to Global Warming will affect human health and well being through a variety of mechanisms. Climate change can adversely impact the availability of fresh water supplies, and the efficiency of local sewerage systems.
A change in world climate could increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. The impact of natural disasters on health is considerable - the number of people killed, injured or made homeless from such causes is increasing alarmingly. Recent tragic events like the Tsunami (Dec 04), the New Orleans disaster (Aug.05) or the massive floods that hit Bolivia in South America (Feb to April 06), Germany and Romania in Europe (Apr. 06) have painfully demonstrated that.
An increase in heatwaves, accompanied by air pollution, is expected be a problem in urban areas, where excess mortality is currently observed during hot weather episodes.
By reducing fresh water supplies, climate change affects sanitation systems and lowers the efficiency of local sewerage systems, leading to an increased concentration of pathogens in water supplies. Changes in rainfall patterns could eventually reduce the availability of drinking water and of water for everyday household needs like washing, cooking and cleaning. Water scarcity may force people to use poor quality sources of fresh water, such as -often contaminated- rivers. All these factors could result in an increased incidence of diarrhoea-related and life-threatening waterborne diseases.
Additionally, The growth of private water utility companies in recent years raises fears of us losing control of our most vital resource to a handful of corporations. Analysts predict that within the next 15 years these companies will control 65 to 75 percent of what are now public waterworks. The sad fact is that the privatisation of water, -through the installation of pre-paid water meters- is a solution which immediately excludes the world's poor.
It is no wonder that water is a top priority on the international environmental agenda, along with the related problem of climate change.
Global Water Initiatives
Others include the Global Water Partnership, the World Water Council, which hosts the World Water Forum, as well as many others NGO's and association like The Fresh Water society, The Groundwater Foundation, World Wildlife Foundation and Water Aid, to name but a few.
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2005-2015, as the UN International Decade for Action Water for Life starting with World Water Day on March 22nd 2005.
The Water for Life Decade gives the world's goals "a greater focus on water-related issues, while striving to ensure the participation of women in water-related development efforts, and further co-operation at all levels". The 10-year period of 2005-2015 will be critical: the time has come for intensifying advocacy efforts and action on the ground.
The decade (2005-2015) offers an opportunity for revitalising political commitment, but it also provides a unique chance to launch a provocative worldwide advocacy effort to catalyse greater public participation in the Water For Life global campaign.
Based on current and emerging priorities, the overall objectives of the UN International Decade for Action Water for Life 2005-2015 are:
- To infuse a sense of urgency and ensure acceleration of effort by all stakeholders in order to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals water and sanitation targets.
- To promote greater awareness of the broader picture of how Integrated Water Resources Development and Management critically underpins the efforts to achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals.
- To catalyse and scale-up the participation of civil society towards building greater societal commitment for the Water for Life effort.
(Goals above are courtesy of the UN's International Decade for Action, Water for Life).
"We shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any of the other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking-water, sanitation and basic health care." Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General
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"A great life is born in the soul, grown in the mind and lived from the heart."