U.S. Water News Online
OSLO, Norway -- The world is slipping behind a U.N. goal of
supplying fresh water by 2015 to more than half a billion people in
developing nations who currently lack it, the head of a U.N.
Governments agreed at a 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South
Africa, to work out by next year national plans for halving the
proportion of people with no access to fresh water by 2015, now 1.2
billion people or one in five of the world population.
"These plans will not be in place in all countries by 2005," said
Boerge Brende, chairman of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable
Development which follows up the Johannesburg goals.
"It's clear that some countries haven't thought about it so far
... and it's often the countries that are worst off in water," he
told a news conference. "We must have plans in place or we don't have
a chance of reaching the 2015 goals."
Brende, who is also Norway's environment minister, said about 100
environment ministers would meet in New York April 14 to 30 to review
the water targets, and a related goal of improving sanitation for an
estimated 2.4 billion people.
He said the water targets were "still doable ... but it will be a
big challenge." Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest problems while
India and China seem better prepared despite their huge populations.
Fresh water would have spin-off benefits in curbing poverty,
improving health or even in defusing potential conflicts in areas
with shared rivers, Brende said.
The Middle East or central Asia could be flash points in future
with no proper management of scant water resources.
"And 70 percent of those who are sick in India are ill because of
water-related illnesses," Brende said.
"In Africa one of the main reasons why girls do not go to school
is that they spend half their day fetching water and the other half
looking for firewood. So there's no time for education," he said.
Brende said that the water goal meant that 300,000 people needed
to gain access to fresh supplies every day. "In the 1980s, the
so-called water decade, we managed 250,000 people a day over 10
years," he said. "But it wasn't properly planned."
He said that many water pumps set up in Africa in the 1980s were
not in use because of a lack of spare parts. Elsewhere, water
supplies have been polluted by sewage.
In Nairobi, Brende said, slum dwellers had to use bottled water,
costing more than gasoline, while less impoverished people with piped
supplies got water cheap because of subsidies.
And in some nations irrigation systems had siphoned off fresh
water to crops. The Aral Sea in central Asia has shrunk to a quarter
of its original size due to water use by cotton farmers.
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