World Water Day, UN to launch Water for Life Decade
reported by Michael Nettles
To spur efforts by governments and civil society to meet agreed
targets on halving the number of people lacking access to safe
drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, the United Nations
is launching the international Water for Life Decade on World
22 March, 2005.
agriculture being the main consumer of water and women in developing
countries often being the main carriers of water, UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan said in a message, "We need to increase water
efficiency, especially in agriculture. We need to free women and
girls from the daily chore of hauling water, often over great
distances. We must involve them in decision-making on water management."
least progress was being made in providing basic sanitation and
many millions of children were dying each year from water-borne
diseases, he said, urging the world "to respond better"
on an urgent matter of human development and human dignity.
we must show that water resources need not be a source of conflict,"
but can be a catalyst for cooperation, Mr. Annan said.
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noting that it now
takes a ton of water to produce 2.2 pounds of wheat, said, "Appropriate
polices and good governance are needed to encourage and guide
farmers to make better use of water."
continuing rise in farm productivity of 67 per cent is needed
to meet food requirements between 2000 and 2030, but the increase
in water use could be kept down to 14 per cent, FAO's Land and
Water Division Director Kenji Yoshinaga said.
agency's water management expert, Jean-Marc Faurès said,
"Agriculture is now coming under much more scrutiny as water
resources are shrinking, populations are growing and competition
between sectors is increasing. Substantial adaptations of agricultural
policies are necessary."
the question of health and sanitation, UN World Health Organization
(WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-Wook said the collective failure
to tackle diarrhoeal disease, which was killing 30,000 people
per week, was "a silent humanitarian crisis" that impeded
the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a
list of targets for reducing many socio-economic ills by 2015.
has been estimated that an additional investment of $11.3 billion
per year over and above current spending could result in a total
economic benefit of $84 billion annually," Dr. Lee said.
"The economic benefits would range from $3 to $34 per $1
invested, depending on the region."
launch will be marked by a "Blessing of the Waters"
tomorrow at UN Headquarters in New York, while a web site on the
decade will be made available.
actual debates and policy recommendations will, however, take
place next month at the 13th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development (CSD-13). There delegates will decide on policies
and actions to achieve the targets set in a collection of environmental
recommendations in 1992 and in follow-up meetings on water, sanitation
and human settlements.
the goals CSD-13 will consider will be ensuring that no one is
excluded from essential water supplies.
of possible actions include the provision of targeted means-tested
direct subsidies to the poor, as in Chile, applying increasing
block rate tariff structures to water pricing, as in Côte
d'Ivoire, and the provision of a basic daily quantity of water
free of charge to households, as in South Africa," the Commission
said in a release.
could also make basic sanitation access affordable to poor people,
by subsidizing household hook-ups to sewerage services, as in
Jamaica and in Trinidad and Tobago, and providing cross-subsidies
to meet the sanitation needs of the poor, as in Egypt, it said.