U.S. Water News Online
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Stressing that 1 billion people lack adequate clean water supplies, U.N. officials have expressed fear that a war over water could erupt in the next 50 years.
"Water issues may be a contributing factor to breaking peace, like oil was in the past," said Wally N'Dow, secretary-general of the second U.N. Conference on Cities.
In a panel discussion at the conference, experts expressed concern that water will cause tense relations between countries forced to share the same water supply.
N'Dow pointed out that "urbanization is bringing about one of the most significant transformations in history." The problems, he said, "are staggering." There are now more than 600 million people officially homeless or living in life-threatening urban conditions.
Most urban centers in the developing world will face extreme water shortages within 15 years, threatening life and health, N'Dow warned. "More than one billion people cannot get clean drinking water," he said. "Dirty water causes 80 percent of diseases in the developing world."
The U.N. report says one of the main reasons for the rapid deterioration in world cities in the past decade is structural adjustment programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund. These programs, devised in the 1980s after the international debt crisis, have demanded that developing countries privatize and deregulate industries, cut public spending, and reduce or eliminate health and education subsidies.
One of the effects on countries in the southern hemisphere, says the report, has been severe cuts "in sectors not considered as priority or core productive sectors."
"The world's aid agencies and development banks mostly give low priority to what is being called the brown agenda of sanitation, housing, air pollution, and waste, which adversely affect the poor most," said N'Dow.
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