UNO - WWDR 3 -2009
April 10th 2009
Honourable Ministers for development cooperation, agriculture, energy, health, education
Honourable members from the advisory services to the democratic parties,
We invite you to take note of the main facts and figures noted in the third UN World Water Report. The report has been drafted as part of the “World Water Assessment Programme”, and was published “Water in a changing world” on March 16 2009.
The report is a coordinated effort of the 26 UN agencies forming the UN-water platform, in collaboration with governments, international institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders.
Every 3 years, a similar report is presented at the World Water Forum, which had its latest edition on March 16-22 2009 in Istanbul.
The entire document can be found on: www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr
The report highlights the inadequacy of current decision making processes to enable change. Humanity is increasing the pressure on natural resources such as water and soil. For the first time, the report emits an alarming sound and makes an urgent call for concrete actions in order to prevent a global water crisis.
Water Access and Water Quality have never been so seriously threatened. Numerous regions in the world are overexploiting there local water resources, while in some places water scarcity or even a lack of water are deepening poverty, underdevelopment and inequality.
Lots of causes contribute to the water crisis. By way of an example; we would like to point at the lack of proper cooperation over the country borders, the tendency to limit thinking to commercial reasoning resulting in non sustainable solutions, and the improper management of water resources neglecting to adopt proper risk management practices.
“The Water actors are aware and convinced of the problems for some time, but do not take any decisions. The responsibility to urgently come to solutions, is with political policymakers.” concludes Olcay Unver, coordinator of the report.
The great challenges we are facing, taken from the report, are summarized below:
- Access to drinking water and basic sanitation (latrines) infrastructure: At the current speed of investment, reaching the Water Millenium Development goal MDG7 is an illusion. According to the most recent forecasts, in 2030, 47% of the population will live in water stressed areas, 67% will not have access to sanitation. Reaching the MDG7 will require an annual investment of 9.5 billion USD only for sanitation. The total investment in 2006 for both sanitation and drinking water was only 3.9 billion USD.
- Population growth: World population, currently estimated at 6.6 billion people, grows yearly with 80 million people. This population growth increases the yearly demand of water with 64 billion m³. Bij 2050, it is expected that 90% of the additional 3 billion people will live in a developing country.
- Agriculture/livestock: Agriculture is the most water absorbing human activity, and accounts for 70% of the fresh water consumption. The manufacturing of a T-shirt requires between 400 and 2000 liters of water. Production of 1 kilo of meat requires between 1000 and 20 000 liters of water! As a consequence of population growth and the stride towards higher living standards, demand for fresh water for agriculture will augment by 70 to 90% by 2050.
- Energy: Energy demand will increase with 55% by 2030. 60% of the increase will be met with hydro power, which involves exploitation of water resources.
- Sanitation (treatment of waste water): 80% of waste water is discharged without treatment back into the environment, with negative impacts for human health, especially in densely populated urban centres. To treat all urban waste water, 100 billion USD per year is needed, which is a worryingly high amount!
- Climate change: Avaibility of water in time and space is being changed by climate change as a consequence of a more “intense” and more rapid water cycle. As a result, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters, including droughts and flooding, will increase.
- Climate refugees: Access to water and sanitation is closely correlated with or is even determining the chances of proper human development. Knowing that around 47% of the world population is living in arid or semi-arid regions, it is estimated 24 to 700 million people would migrate or seek refuge to escape from the consequences of water scarcity and a lack of sanitation, largely due to climate change.
There are also the current conditions and our lifestyle which are increasing the pressure on our water ressources and are contributing to the global water crisis. The report highlights that quality of drinking water and access to it are further threatened by unlimited urban sprawl, fast industrial development in growth and developing countries, the ecological and financial crises and high energy and food prices.
The WWDR-3-report points out that not one MDG can be reached without preliminary investment in the water sector. Water is at the very basis of human development. How should we combat poverty and hunger when people or local economies do not have access to water? How can women become more independent or can children be encouraged to go to school, when they have to walk significant distances daily to carry just 20 litres of water back to the family?
Governments remain reluctant to put forward the required financial means, although the WHO shows in its statistics that every dollar invested in the water sector generates 3 to 34 dollars!
Investing in water is also investing in the environment, in future generations, in improved gender, in health, in food security. Developed countries are currently investing up to 200 billion dollar per year to replace old drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, which is 10 times the budget required to reach MDG7 in 2015!
Although the vital character of water and the unsustainable way we are using it, are commonly known, the water sector still lacks political interest and sufficient investment.
The proposed solutions are mainly of political nature. Olcay Unver puts it like this: “water has to be in the centre of any political strategy – be it agriculture, energy, health, infrastructure,…” It is indeed true that factors and policy decisions outside the water sector are having a larger influence on water management than all the policy work done and political decisions made by the ministers in charge of water affairs.
We would like to bring to your attention the following recommendations:
- Stimulate of institutional reforms: decentralisation, participation, transparency, sustainable, (cross-boundary,) water resources management.
- Recognize the transversal dimension of water and promote integrated approach between the different sectors (agricultural, energy, industry) in policy and decision making.
- Improve knowledge sharing and exchange of information, expertise and technology.
- Increase the level of participation by civil society and population in decision making processes.
- Increase awareness of population and stimulate education and formation around water.
- Develop participatory models for natural resources management.
Based on the above information, we would like to invite you to seriously consider the following 4 requests to the Belgian political establishment:
- To recognize the right to drinking water as a constitutional right and to advocate for this recognition to be included in international legislation.
- To include water in all Belgian development cooperation projects as a transversal theme, and to advocate for Europe to use the same approach.
- To advocate for a just, sustainable and participatory water management system, with strong customer participation.
- To advocate the inclusion of “water” as a priority theme at the “post-Kyoto”-summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. There already is an urgent need for climate change adaptation measures related to water in the developing world, which will have a significant effect on world peace. Water management has to be viewed as a key political element to prevent conflicts.
“There has been a widespread failure to recognize water’s vital role in providing food, energy, sanitation, disaster relief, environmental sustainability and other benefits.
This has left hundreds of millions of people suffering from poverty and ill health and exposed to the risks of water-related diseases.”
Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations.
Honourable Ministers, Members of the advisory services to the democratic parties, we would like to sincerely thank you for your valuable time and effort.
On behalf of the subscribing organisations: