2003 Is the International Year of Freshwater

Article excerpt

WHILE our attention is focused on the threat of armed conflict in Mindanao and the Middle East, there is a growing threat which according to many leading figures including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan may become a source of conflict and wars in the future.

It is the fierce competition for one of the most basic elements of life and our most precious resource on this planet - water. Because of its vital importance, the issue of the diminishing supply of freshwater received a central focus at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year. The International Year of Freshwater which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly aims to raise awareness regarding sustainable water use and the management and protection of freshwater ecosystems.

We understand that a sizeable portion of the global population - about 1.1 billion people currently live without adequate access to safe water according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNICEF. An even larger segment of the population - 2.4 billion or 40% lack access to adequate sanitation services It is also estimated that 80% of all diseases in the developing world is water related. About 2.2 billion die each year, mostly children, as a result of diarrheal diseases. The target of the UN Millennium Development Goals is to reduce by 50% the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, an additional goal was launched and it is to cut in half the proportion of people living without adequate sanitation also by 2015. This is only 12 years from now, but at the rate most of us who have access to this resource are using it, we may not be able to attain these targets.

For example, despite continuous reminders, the reality that the supply is finite has not sunk in the minds of many of us. …