On World Water Day, charity warns that tens of
millions still lack access to water, with most living in rural areas.
More than half a billion people across the world lack access
to clean water, with most of them living outside urban
centres, according to an international charity.
In a report released on Wednesday to mark World Water
Day, WaterAid called for action to tackle existing
challenges to water security and ensure reliable access to
safe water.
“Today 663 million people globally are still without clean
water and the vast majority of them – 522 million – live in
rural areas,” the report said.
According to WaterAid, Papua New Guinea, Mozambique
and Madagascar are among the countries worst off.
They are also among the 20 percent of nations most
vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt.
The report also said that country with the greatest
percentage of the rural population without access to clean
water was Angola, at 71 per cent.
The UN Environment Programme forecasts that water
demand – for industry, energy and an extra billion people –
will increase 50 percent by 2030.
“There is an absolute necessity to increase water security
in order to overcome the challenges brought on by climate
change and human influence,” said Benedito Braga, head
of the World Water Council, an umbrella grouping of
governments, associations and research bodies.
In a new report also published on Wednesday, the United
Nations said that recycling the world’s wastewater – runoff
from agriculture, industry and expanding cities – would
ease global water shortages while protecting the
environment.
This is especially true in poor countries where very little,
if any, wastewater is treated or recycled.
“Neglecting the opportunities arising from improved
wastewater management is nothing less than
unthinkable,” said Irina Bokova, director-general of
UNESCO.
High-income nations treat about 70 percent of the
wastewater they generate, a figure that drops to 38 percent
for upper middle-income countries.
In low-income nations, only eight percent of industrial
and municipal wastewater undergoes treatment of any
kind.
Chemicals and nutrients from factories and farms create
dead zones in rivers, lakes and coastal waters, and seep
into aquifers.
More than 800,000 people die every year because of
contaminated drinking water, and not being able to
properly wash their hands.
Water-related diseases claim nearly 3.5 million lives
annually in Africa, Asia and Latin America – more than the
global death toll from AIDS and car crashes combined.
Besides reducing pollution at the source, the World Water
Development Report emphasised removing contaminants
from wastewater flows, reusing water and recovering
useful by-products.
“Up to now, decision makers have mainly focused on
supplying clean water rather than managing it after it has
been used,” said UNESCO’s Richard Connor, the UN
report’s lead author.
“The two aspects are inextricably linked.”
Water can be used over and over, he added, pointing to
the fact that water from several major rivers in the United
States is recycled up to 20 times before reaching the ocean.
Experts are calling for an increase in water security globally [Zsolt Czegledi/EPA] The UN forecasts that water demand will increase 50
percent by 2030 [Epa Hein/EPA]

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