U.S. Water News Online
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Environmental degradation, poor
management and a burgeoning population have produced some of the
worst water shortages in the world in sub-Saharan Africa,
exacerbating poverty and disease, according to a U.N. report.
Around the world, mismanagement, limited resources and
environmental changes have combined to deny 1.1 billion people access
to safe water, the report said. The report was compiled by 24 U.N.
agencies that say it is the most comprehensive assessment to date of
the planet's freshwater supplies.
Globally, diarrhea diseases and malaria kill around 3.1 million
people, according to the U.N., which said 1.6 million could be saved
if provided with safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.
Poor nations are losing as much as 8 percent of their gross
domestic product due to environmental degradation. Water pollution in
China alone cost the country $1.7 billion in lost industrial income
In Kenya, improved resilience to droughts and floods by better
water management and preparedness could see the country's gross
domestic product increase as much as 6 percent, the report states.
Drought is creating a hunger crisis in Kenya and elsewhere in East
"Good governance would certainly reduce the impact of drought,"
said Salif Diop, head of the water unit in the early warning and
assessment division of UNEP. "Deforestation, overgrazing, not
managing lakes; all those are factors that aggravate drought."
Water use has increased six-fold during the last century, double
the rate of population growth. More water is needed for food
production, which must grow by 55 percent to meet food needs by 2030.
But private investment in water services is declining and financial
resources for the water sector are stagnating, the report found.
The 584-page report was presented at the Fourth World Water Forum
in Mexico City. It says better management, not only by governments
but also local authorities, the private sector and civil society is
"Good governance is essential for managing our increasingly
stretched supplies of freshwater and indispensable for tackling
poverty," said Koichiro Matsuura, director general of the U.N.
educational and cultural body, UNESCO.
Investment in water also pays massive dividends, the authors
argued. It is estimated 322 million working days a year are lost --
worth $750 million (euro630 million) -- because of poor water and
sanitation. Meeting global targets to provide clean water and
sanitation would yield time and convenience savings of $7 billion
(euro5.9 billion) and $340 million (euro285 million) in health care
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